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Zimbabwe's Former Ruling ZANU-PF Reiterates Demand for 2011 Elections

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said the politburo decision was final but the Movement for Democratic Change said neither President Robert Mugabe nor his party can unilaterally determine election timing

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's former ruling ZANU-PF party's politburo has rejected a elections road map proposed by negotiators for the parties in Harare's unity government, saying time lines must be shortened so that new elections can be held this year - which most observers do not believe is at all feasible.

Power-sharing negotiators have been working with South African President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team on the elections road map ahead of next month’s summit of the Southern African Development Community, which named Mr. Zuma mediator.

The proposed road map sent to Mr Zuma and the unity government principals - Mr. Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara - projects national elections in September 2012 or even as late as early 2013.

Mr. Tsvangirai's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change and the MDC wing now led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube dismissed the position adopted by the ZANU-PF politburo and said they won't take part in elections without broad reforms.

The political climate in Harare has become increasingly tense in recent weeks.

Some political analysts say ZANU-PF hardliners have hatched a plot to arrest Finance Minister Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Tsvangirai MDC wing, hoping to provoke the MDC to quit the national unity government launched in early 2009. But ZANU-PF sources who declined to be identified called the scenario nonsensical.

Party spokesman Rugare Gumbo said the politburo decision was final and and there is no going back. “The politburo is unanimous that elections should be held this year," he told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu. Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa "gave us a report on the election road map, taking us through the time frames," he added.

But negotiator Moses Mzila Ndlovu of the smaller MDC formation led by Ncube told VOA reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that ZANU-PF's position is unacceptable.

Political analyst and lawyer Chris Mhike said ZANU-PF is merely grandstanding as the party is aware that holding elections this year is simply not possible.

The ZANU-PF politburo’s position was met with ridicule by some observers who said it was unrealistic to suggest a constitutional referendum and new elections can be held by year’s end. Others said much-needed electoral reforms could not be implemented on such a timetable in order that the elections would be democratic, free and fair.

Civic organizations and both MDC formations say following the road map backed by President Zuma is the key to holding credible national elections.

For perspective, VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo spoke with Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga and Goodson Nguni of the ZANU-PF-aligned Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations.

Nguni said the ZANU-PF politburo's resolution to reject the proposed road map is clear and the party is prepared let the people decide who will run the country.

Elsewhere, President Mugabe and Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also ZANU-PF secretary for legal affairs, have accepted a compromise method of compiling public comments on the constitution for its drafters – with certain modifications.

The constitutional revision process was put on hold in May when a dispute arose over whether comments on various points should be weighted by frequency or by the quality of opinions expressed. Mnangagwa, considered a potential successor to Mr. Mugabe, is said to be determined to see that presidential powers are not watered down.

The ZANU-PF co-chairman of the parliamentary committee in charge of the process, Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, said the new ZANU-PF compromise proposal has been sent to both MDC formations for their consideration.