Mugabe to call for June elections, deploy military – Politburo sources

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe intends to abandon talks over a new constitution and call elections in June after deploying troops to intimidate voters into supporting him, three members of his party’s decision- making body said

The soldiers have also been told to prevent the opposition from campaigning while candidates of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front will take orders from the military and intelligence services, the party members said, declining to be identified because of concern about their safety. One of the members dictated a list to Bloomberg naming more than 60 military officers and where they will based during the campaign.

Calling a mid-year election would breach an agreement with Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, which formed a coalition government with Zanu-PF in 2009, to draw up a new constitution and hold a referendum on that before elections were held. That agreement was brokered by neighboring countries including South Africa and brought to an end a decade-long recession. It left the MDC in control of the finance ministry while giving Mugabe authority over the military and police.

The MDC won a majority of parliamentary seats in the 2008 election and while Tsvangirai garnered the most votes in a first round presidential election held concurrently. He boycotted the runoff citing attacks his supporters by the army and police. That election and elections in 2005, 2002 and 2000 were marred by electoral irregularities, according to local and international observers including missions sent by the European Union.

Stalling on Elections

Mugabe, who has been in power since the country won its independence in 1980, said on state television on Jan. 24 that he may call an election without the adoption of a new constitution because the MDC is avoiding going to the polls. Earlier this month the MDC said in an e-mailed response to questions that some of its supporters around the country have been attacked by the military.

Rugare Gumbo, a spokesman for Zanu-PF, denied that the military will be deployed, in an interview from Harare, the capital. His party does plan to have elections called this year, he said. Talks over the constitution, already a year behind schedule, are due to be completed by June 30 and a referendum held after that.

Zanu-PF officials in the central province of Masvingo and the eastern province of Manicaland have already been summoned by the military and told that the campaign in their areas will be run by a senior airforce officer, one of the party officials said.

Sanctions Petition

The military will also be tasked with forcing Zimbabwean citizens to sign a petition denouncing sanctions imposed by the EU and the U.S. against Mugabe and many of his closest allies in government and the military, the party officials said.

Those sanctions are frequently cited by Mugabe and his party as the reason for the country’s poor performance economically because they say they amount to a directive to lenders to shun the country. Local directors of foreign-owned companies will also be pressured to denounce sanctions in the media or face harassment from the government, the officials said.

“The situation has the potential for a blood bath if these elections are rushed,” Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe’s finance minister and secretary general of the MDC, said in an interview from Harare today.

Zimbabwe has the world’s second-biggest reserves of platinum, after neighboring South Africa. Rio Tinto Plc, based in London, and Johannesburg-based Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Anglo Platinum Ltd. operate mines in the country.