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Zimbabwe Political Parties Clash Over General Election Date

Political parties in the government of national unity are generally agreed that elections to replace their unstable coalition should be called sometime this year.

But just which month the harmonized polls should be held remains an issue which the two Movement for Democratic (MDC) formations say may only be settled by the Southern African Development Community if the three parties continue to disagree.

Addressing journalists at the National Press Club on Wednesday night, MDC-T deputy treasurer general, Elton Mangoma, and secretary general of the MDC formation led by Professor Welshman Ncube, Priscilla Misiharabwi-Mushonga, said none of the three unity government principals has the power to set election dates by themselves.

President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party want elections held by June 29 but the MDC formations say it’s not feasible, preferring the polls to be called after August.

Misihairambwi-Mushonga said all three political parties have to agree on the dates for the crucial election that will bring the unity government to an end.

Mangoma said security sector and media reforms and an overhaul of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission secretariat should be prioritized before dates for an election are proclaimed.

Mangoma and Misihairambwi-Mushonga agreed Zimbabwe should establish the rule of law firmly before the Southern African Development Community can approve its quest to hold elections this year.

The two said the United Nations World Tourism Organization general assembly that is due to be held in August will also be key in deciding the election dates.

Misihairambwi-Mushonga said elections in their nature are divisive, adding it may not be wise for the country to hold polls at a time it will be hosting a major international event like the UNWTO assembly.

She said with parliament dissolving at the end of June, it is imperative to ensure all legislative amendments required are implemented. "Failure to do so would result in the use of the presidential temporary measures act to resolve outstanding issues," she said.

Misihairambwi-Mushonga said this is undesirable as the president may abuse the powers. Mangoma agreed.

Asked whether the MDC formations and other parties will unite against Zanu PF in the harmonized elections, the two agreed that would be ideal. But Misihairambwi-Mushonga said it would be difficult to do so given the in-fighting caused by primary elections in the parties ahead of the polls.

Commenting, Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisayi Ruhanya said it’s imperative for political parties seeking to oust Zanu PF from office to unite ahead of the national elections.

Ruhanya said President Mugabe will be defeated in this year’s polls if the two MDC formations and other political parties unite.

Meanwhile, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has released a new report investigating the political strategies at the center of Zanu PF’s attempts to win the next
harmonized elections and re-establish its control in the country.

Titled ‘Pre-election Detectors – Zanu PF’s attempt to re-claim political hegemony’, the paper questions if the country can run a free and fair election.

Report author Phillan Zamchiya, regional coordinator of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition penned the report. He said Zanu PF is modifying its terror tactics in a bid to win the crucial election, adding not much violence as was seen in 2008 would be visible in the public domain.