Zanu PF plans early 2018 poll

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF are increasingly getting confident that they can catch the haggling opposition cold by holding an early election.

This comes as the opposition is yet to finalise its grand coalition as MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai and the National People’s Party (NPP) leader Joice Mujuru — who are touted as possible leaders of the mooted alliance — continue to move back and forth due to unending differences.

It became apparent at the weekend that Mugabe and Zanu PF have made considerable progress in putting the building blocks for early 2018 elections, in which the main highlight is likely to be the contest between the 93-year-old and Tsvangirai.

“...there is no doubt that the elections are going to take place in the first half of next year. Time is, therefore, of essence if we are going to put in place mechanisms that will help us win the election,” the ruling party’s secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo told officials at a one-day workshop on voter education and voter registration held at their headquarters last weekend.

“And for us as Zanu PF, there is no other option, but to win this election by a margin that leaves no doubt that we are the dominant political party in this country.”

Legal and parliamentary experts have said nothing would stop Mugabe from proclaiming an early election if he needed.

They cited section 144 of the Constitution which says a general election can result from dissolution of Parliament, which Mugabe can exploit should he suppose an early election be politically expedient.

MDC spokesperson, Obert Gutu, said they have always suspected that the Zanu PF regime would like to call a snap election.

“They think they are taking the opposition by surprise but then, they’re fooling themselves.

“The MDC Alliance is now on board and we are on a roll. In fact, more opposition political parties will very soon be coming on board. Zanu PF is finished; they are like a dead man walking,” Gutu told the Daily News.

“We are also acutely aware of the fact that this vapid and rabid regime is arm-twisting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) so that they help the regime to rig the election.

“We have gathered intelligence to the effect that the Zanu PF regime might actually want to abandon the BVR (biometric voter registration) process,” he added.

Piers Pigou, senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said Chombo has no authority to determine election dates.

“Perhaps the opposition should be seeking clarity from the president and government regarding its intentions in this regard,” Pigou told the Daily News.

“This doesn’t mean Zanu PF isn’t entitled to prepare for elections in this period. The opposition had long been aware there may be efforts to push for an early election. This is critical in light of the diminishing capacities of the ruling party’s candidate, Mugabe.

“But much has to be done before then to ensure there is a real chance for these polls to secure sufficient internal and external legitimacy.

“The plethora of unresolved issues relating to the voters’ roll is just one of many issues that does not auger well. This is especially so if the posturing of senior Zanu PF officials such as Chombo reflects a firm position within the party.”

“A careful analysis of where the opposition can work to regain seats and retain those they have is critical.

“It seems likely that Zanu PF will continue its efforts to reclaim more urban or metropolitan seats. Many more constituencies in places like Harare will be subject to serious contestation by the ruling party,” he added.

Pigou said the unresolved issues around the voters’ roll will compromise the legitimacy of the results unless properly addressed.

“These are issues that opposition formations have already articulated very clearly under the banner of Nera or Zinera,” Pigou said.

“I haven’t seen much said about these issues from these formations such as independent candidates who have spring-boarded their political ambitions of the energy of the hashtag protest movements.”

The Zanu PF youth league has since set the party’s campaign machine rolling with the ongoing youth interface rallies attracting bumper crowds for Mugabe, who wants to extend his rule at the helm of government beyond the current 37 years.

In the meantime, there is no consensus on the mooted grand coalition despite talks and signing of pacts by Tsvangirai and seven fringe parties to form an alliance, the MDC Alliance.

Mujuru and other opposition leaders have distanced themselves from the MDC Alliance and are holding out for more in the final coalition whose leader is currently the bone of contention.

Analysts and a large cross-section of Zimbabweans have consistently said a united opposition, contesting as a single bloc in next year’s elections, has a chance of ending Mugabe and Zanu PF’s political dominance.

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