Robert Mugabe capitulates on elections

Harare – The embattled Zimbabwean strongman President Robert Mugabe, on the back of unbridled defiance propped up by military Generals has capitulated and agreed that snap elections could be postponed to 2012, after previously insisting they take place this year, state-controlled media reported Friday.

The move is seen as a concession to South African President Jacob Zuma and other neighbours who have demanded that the next election must be free and fair, and held after widespread political reforms.

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Mugabe said the nearly three-year-old coalition agreement between him and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai should end this year and be followed immediately by elections, according to the Herald newspaper.

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‘If we fail, then elections should be held during the first few months next year,’ Mugabe said.

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There are widespread fears that an election run by Mugabe and the generals who back him would lead to a violent political crackdown on opponents, as seen during the last election in 2008.

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The president, and hardliners in his Zanu-PF party, had insisted on elections – even if the new constitution being drafted by the parties to the power-sharing government was not complete.

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Mugabe was accused of repeatedly blocking changes to Zimbabwe’s deeply partisan institutions and draconian laws, until southern African leaders rebuked him in March, demanding an end to his delaying tactics.

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Rumours circulated this week that Mugabe was preparing to withdraw from the 15-nation Southern African Development Community, which underwrote the coalition agreement, if it continued to insist on the wide-reaching changes he signed up to in the agreement.

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Western diplomats said Zanu-PF was anxious to hold early elections out of fears over Mugabe’s health. The 87-year-old leader has made regular visits to Singapore for medical treatment. They pointed out that Zanu-PF was likely to lose a free and fair ballot, after 31 years in power.

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Mugabe said he wanted to end the coalition government because Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change did ‘not want to see the economy prospering,’ the Herald reported.

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Economists say Mugabe’s policy of printing vast quantities of money and forcing companies to sell goods for below production cost – dubbed ‘Mugonomics’ – led to the collapse of what had been one of Africa’s most successful economies.

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The national currency collapsed to a worth of 4 trillion Zimbabwean dollars to one US dollar, and inflation reached 500 billion per cent.

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