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March polls hinge on reforms — Analysts

President Robert Mugabe last week indicated that he wanted elections held next March, but questions linger on whether polls would be possible then and if the president was genuine.

Report Nqaba Matshazi

Qhubani Moyo of the MDC says what’s important is to reform key institutions that run elections, so that the next elections won’t be disputed

Analysts this week indicated that while a poll was possible in six months, provided there was political will, Mugabe might have been seeking to frustrate former legislators that want him to declare a date for by-elections.

Mugabe was supposed to set a date by today, but by saying that he would call for an election in March, analysts said, he could be trying to pre-empt the Supreme Court order that compelled him to set a date.

MDC formations are quite sceptical of elections being held in six months’ time, saying they were ready for them but it was important that key reforms be put in place before a date was set.

“For us, it’s not about the date, but about the milestones that have to be achieved in reforming key institutions that run elections, so we can produce an indisputable winner,” Qhubani Moyo, a senior MDC official said.

MDC-T organising secretary, Nelson Chamisa said what was needed were conditions for a free election and not rushing to set the date for elections.

“Setting a date before key reforms are implemented is akin to putting the cart before the horse. any talk of elections without reform is futile and fatal to both the country and whoever is proposing that,” he said.

Both officials said constitutional, security sector, media and electoral law reforms were needed before polls were called for.

Political analyst Charles Mangongera said while this was a clear indication of Mugabe’s intent to hold elections, it was not the first time the veteran leader had made a definitive call for elections.

Mangongera said since 2010, Mugabe and Zanu PF had been demanding polls, with the party’s last conference declaring that elections be held this year.
Earlier this year, Mugabe said he would announce a date for elections at the end of May, but this came to nought.

Mangongera said the plan was to set an agenda and have the nation discussing elections while losing sight of key reforms that were needed before polls were held.

“There is a whole range of critical reforms that need to be implemented, but now Zanu PF wants people to lose sight of these issues and concentrate on elections,” he said.

Mangongera was of the view that elections could be held in six months’ time, but he feared that there was lack of political will to implement key reforms by Zanu PF.

This, he said, would scupper the March poll plan.
“Six months is a reasonable time frame to hold elections if there is sufficient political will, but there are critical political processes that need to be carried out before then,” he said.

This was a view shared by Trevor Maisiri, a senior analyst for southern Africa at the International Crisis Group.

“If there is utmost political will among political parties for a free and fair election, six months is ample time to prepare and hold such a plebiscite,” he said.

“However, given the gridlock in the Government of National Unity and the stalling of reforms, I don’t think six months will deliver any significant reforms for a free and fair election — unless there is a new vein of political will. Without political will, even another five years will not produce the pre-requisite reforms.”

Maisiri said while Mugabe might want elections in March, he had to consult MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube, who heads MDC.


‘MDC-T may prefer delayed elections’


Political analyst, Trevor Maisiri, added that MDC-T may prefer a delay in elections and would oppose Mugabe’s March poll plans as it had to sort out issues regarding its support base.

Recent surveys by the Freedom House and Afro-Barometer have indicated that the party’s support was dwindling.


MDC formations against Zanu PF ‘unilateralism’


The MDC formations have bemoaned President Robert Mugabe’s declaration that elections would be held next March, saying he could not make such a decision unilaterally.

Mugabe has made no secret of his desire to have elections as soon as possible. His party wanted to collapse the inclusive government last February claiming that it only had a two-year life span.

Sadc, on the other hand, has demanded that Zimbabwe first implement key reforms before holding elections, whose result might be contested.
The High Court will tomorrow decide if Mugabe’s latest appeal to have the by-elections deferred was urgent.

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