Mid-year elections not possible – PM

HARARE – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said it will be impossible to hold elections in mid 2011. Robert Mugabe has ruled out extending the lifespan of the troubled coalition beyond two years, and says Zimbabweans will vote in a referendum on a new constitution early next year and then go for general elections by mid-year.

Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe needed time to work on peace and security, political reforms, including repealing repressive legislation, opening up the media, introducing new electoral laws, and updating the voters’ roll.

“There is no way we can go to the polls without the necessary reforms and before we conclude the current constitutional review process,” he said last week.

“I don’t think at the moment you can conduct a democratic and credible election in Zimbabwe.” But Mugabe is adamant that general elections will happen by mid-year, and is defying increasing calls, even within his own party to defer them.

Last week business told his party that elections would reverse the economic stability and gains made so far. Senior government officials and diplomats insist credible elections can only be held either in 2012 or 2013.

In August, the head of the electoral commission clearly stated there was no cash to bankroll a vote, and lamented the shocking state f the voters’ roll, which the MDC has said is stuffed with dead voters and has previously been used ton steal elections.

The PM’s party wants a biometric voters register linked to computer database. “Once the roadmap is there, it will define the end of the coalition. The sooner we have one party in power with a clear mandate from the people, the better,” Tsvangirai said.

Rights activists are also warning against an election next year, saying it could provoke even worse violence.

“The 2008 is a classic example of how not to do it,” human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama said. “If we hold elections next year there could be mayhem and a bloodbath.”

Diplomats have also hazarded against an election next year. "It is not for us to say when elections should be held. It is for the parties in the (Zimbabwe) global political agreement to decide when the next election should be held," British ambassador Mark Canning told reporters recently.

"However…an election that is held too soon is likely to be much like the last one in 2008," he said of a vote scorned by African observers as fraudulent and rigged.

"We envisage that a poll that is held prematurely will neither be free nor fair," he added. But a defiant Mugabe told the Sunday Mail last week that he had communicated his exasperation about the GNU to President Jacob Zuma that he was not happy sharing power with Tsvangirai.

"I told President (Jacob) Zuma I am a lawyer and I am not happy to be in a thing which is semi-legal," Mugabe told the paper.

"Our authority as a government does not derive from a properly constituted constitutional position but from a makeshift arrangement and Zimbabweans should never be governed on such a makeshift arrangement for too long. I feel awkward in a thing like that, absolutely awkward."

Political analysts say there is nothing “semi-legal” about the GPA and inclusive government because it derived its mandate from Constitution, pointedly Amendment 19. – The Zimbabwean