Robert Mugabe Under Pressure to Accept Election Delay in Zimbabwe

Published on Tuesday 4th January 2011

Robert Mugabe's hopes of having a parliamentary election by June this year could be dashed, following reports that Zimbabwe is likely to postpone the poll in order to make constitutional reforms first.

This could force the ZANU PF leader, who insists on both presidential and parliamentary elections by mid-year, to agree to hold a poll much later than he'd like, a political analyst has said.

Media reports this weekend quoted the state-controlled Sunday Mail as saying that it would not be possible to hold elections because the country's constitutional reforms need to be completed first. The newspaper also reportedly said that complications in implementing the Global Political Agreement (GPA) were another hindrance.

The Zimbabwe Mail meanwhile also reported that sources, believed to be aligned to retired army general Solomon Mujuru, said it was not feasible to hold elections in the first half of 2011. These sources reportedly said that Zimbabwe had informed fellow members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) of this.

Political analyst Dr Brilliant Mhlanga said on Monday that Mugabe could give in to demands for the elections to be delayed.

"He might accept, particularly if his group of parliamentarians from his party are able to impress on him that they are able to work hard to ensure that he stands for presidency and then to ensure that he wins the presidency, then after that they look at their own issues," Mhlanga explained.

Mhlanga said the ageing Mugabe has been calling for parliamentary elections to be held soon because he hopes he'll be able to entrench ZANU PF in power with whatever 'energy' he has left. There have been widespread reports that the octogenarian leader's health is seriously deteriorating, a claim he has been quick to deny.

"This for Mugabe is not meant to address the challenges Zimbabweans are facing. It's simply meant to address ZANU PF's succession issue. It is an issue he feels has to be addressed now while he has a bit of energy, otherwise if it is postponed he may not have that energy. He is living on those sedatives and getting old each day," Mhlanga said.

The three principals to the Global Political Agreement (GPA), made up of Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, are completely split on the elections. Mugabe has repeatedly called for Presidential and Parliamentary elections to be held by mid-year, saying that the GPA, which expires in February, is nearing its end and cannot be used to determine the election time line.

Tsvangiari, who is also the leader of the MDC-T, is instead pushing for only Presidential elections to be held this year and wants the general poll to be held in 2013, which is in line with the constitution. In his Christmas message, Tsvangirai said: "The outstanding electoral business is the unfinished Presidential election of 2008. There was no contestation on the outcome of the Parliamentary and local government elections."

On the other hand Mutambara, who is the leader of the MDC-M, has strongly opposed elections being held, a stance which critics says is obvious as he would be completely obliterated if they were to take place. In more recent developments, Mutambara has announced that he will step down as leader of his troubled party, saying he hoped that it would preserve unity. He is expected to be replaced by his secretary-general Welshman Ncube at the party's congress this week.

If Zimbabwe does indeed postpone elections to allow for constitutional reform, it would be line with SADC's stance. The regional body is understood to want elections to be held this year, but insists that there first has to be a referendum on the constitution. SADC is reported to be keen to supervise the elections to ensure there is no violence, murders and vote rigging, which characterised previous polls. There is also talk of a SADC presence in Zimbabwe as part of its monitoring strategy, six months before and six months after the election.


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