Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai addressed thousands of supporters of his formation of the Movement for Democratic Change late Tuesday in the Harare suburb of Mabvuku in what some analysts saw as the informal launch of an election campaign in light of President Robert Mugabe’s call for a national ballot next year.
Mr. Tsvangirai told party loyalists to brace for elections in 2011, adding that the MDC will draw on all its national and international resources to ensure that the election is free and fair and above all peaceful.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said Mr. Tsvangirai underscored that if elections are to be held next year, the African Union and Southern African Development Community should deploy peacekeeping forces.
Zimbabwe's last elections in 2008 resulted in widespread political violence that claimed more than 200 lives - mostly those of MDC supporters at the hands of militants of Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
Tensions continued to run high within the country's chronically troubled national unity government, but Mr. Tsvangirai showed up for a meeting of the Cabinet earlier ending a brief boycott. But sources said his relations with Mr. Mugabe remained cool: a weekly meeting of unity government principals Monday was canceled, sources said.
Boosting expectations that Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai may be going to the country in 2011, ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu there no going back on elections at this point.
Political analyst Trevor Maisiri said rushing into elections next year will resolve nothing.
In Parliament, lawmakers of the Tsvangirai MDC formation accused ZANU-PF of derailing the national healing process with a nationwide campaign of violence. ZANU-PF lawmakers called the MDC the worst perpetrator of violence.
Bulawayo East Member of Parliament Thabitha Khumalo of the Tsvangirai MDC told reporter Brenda Moyo that such recriminations diverted debate from other issues like revision of the Public Order and Security Act.
Elsewhere, the Center for Community Development of Zimbabwe urged sweeping reform of the electoral system before any new elections are held, including disclosure of the number of ballots printed and repeal of the Citizenship Act which stripped thousands of Zimbabweans of foreign extraction of their voting rights.
Center for Community Development Director Philip Pasirayi told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the government should let civil society organizations start voter education programs well ahead of elections.