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2013 Primary Elections Scaring Zimbabwean Politicians

With national elections expected next year, President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) formation are currently grappling with primary elections which have become a source of serious intra-party conflict over the past few years.

Primaries are supposed to ensure that each party presents its strongest candidate in the general election and give the people a bigger voice in choosing the leadership.

But few party bosses want to be challenged, especially in their own constituencies.

The debate over primaries has surfaced in the in Mr. Tsvangirai's party, whose senior leaders recently contradicted each other over these elections.

Party organizing secretary Nelson Chamisa initially said every member intending to represent the MDC in the election would be forced to go through primary polls, noting that "there won’t be any sacred cows”.

But the prime minister's party on Thursday said while they do plan to hold primaries in December as sitting lawmakers would have to be confirmed by their constituents.

Spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said the MDC's standing committee had agreed that the MDC would hold confirmation elections in which party structures will vote to retain or replace incumbent candidates.

Some aspiring politicians call this a "sweetheart deal" meant to protect incumbents from challengers.

“First, we will hold primaries where we do not have Members of Parliament. We call these constituencies orphaned. After that we will have a confirmation election in areas where we have MPs. The aim is to weed out unpopular MPs,” Mwonzora said.

For its part, the Zanu PF old guard afraid of losing constituencies to challengers, is pushing the party to consider new regulations to guide the conduct of primary polls that may block former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and businessman Phillip Chiyangwa from contesting.

But Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo tells VOA the regulations are still being formulated.
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