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President Mugabe's 2012 Election Gambit Faces More Daunting Hurdles

Calls by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party for elections this year continue to run into hurdles, with opposition parties - backed by South Africa - uniting in their insistence for democratic reforms first.

The National Council of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai met on Thursday and reiterated that Mugabe cannot unilaterally call the vote without consulting other parties in the rickety government of national unity.

Smaller parties such as Zapu and Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn have also joined ranks with the MDC in calling for major reforms before any polls are held.

Regional powerhouse, South Africa - the Southern African Development Community’s appointed mediator in Harare - has also called for a raft of changes, including a clear election roadmap, a revised voter register and an end to violence.

On its part, the Tsvangirai MDC said on Thursday that liberalization of the media, security and electoral reforms are needed in the country to enable a democratic election without violence, intimidation and voter fraud.

But the party expressed frustration at the slow pace with which SADC is moving to appoint three officials to work with the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee in policing the Global Political Agreement and related issues.

Party spokesman, Douglas Mwonzora said the holding of polls is subject to the ironing out of outstanding issues, including the installation of a new democratic constitution.

Some analysts have argued that South African President Jacob Zuma is currently too pre-occupied with internal squabbles in his African National Congress party such that the Zimbabwean crisis is no longer his priority.

But Mr. Zuma’s facilitator in Harare and international relations adviser, Lindiwe Zulu, emphasized the need for fundamental reforms, telling VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that Zimbabwe remains top on her boss’ agenda.

ZANU-PF officials have in the past accused Zulu of meddling in the country's politics, for insisting on reforms and compromise in efforts to navigate the troubled country towards a lasting solution.

And true to form, party spokesman Rugare Gumbo dismissed Zulu’s remarks on Friday, saying that Zimbabwe is a sovereign state that should be left to make its own decisions.

Political commentator and director of the Bulawayo-based civic group, Habakkuk Trust, Dumisani Nkomo told VOA that Mr. Mugabe may not prevail against the overwhelming opposition to a vote without reforms.