Election sticking points

While all the main players are agreed that elections should take place in 2013, there are still a number of hurdles to be negotiated. Before elections can be held, a new constitution is needed, and other points in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) – such as electoral and media reforms -implemented.

Amended 19 times in 32 years, Zimbabwe’s Lancaster House Constitution, written in London as part of the independence talks in 1979, is said to concentrate too much power in the presidency. The two MDC formations want this diluted. Therefore, Article VI of the GPA expressly enjoined Zimbabweans “as a fundamental right and duty… to make a constitution by themselves and for themselves in an inclusive and democratic manner”.

As a result, a draft constitution has been written and will be put to a parliamentary debate and national referendum before adoption. Last October, a Second All Stakeholders Conference was held over three days in the capital, Harare, to discuss the draft constitution and the way forward.

At the conference, President Mugabe pushed forcefully for elections to be held at the end of March 2013, but the two MDCs were not keen on this early date because certain processes must be fulfilled first. For example, according to Tendai Biti, secretary general of MDC-T and finance minister in the inclusive government, the draft constitution, as well as electoral and media reforms, would need to be introduced first to make any election results “credible, legitimate and sustainable”.

His views are echoed by Welshman Ncube, MDC-N leader and industry minister. A constitutional expert, Ncube believes it is “impossible” to have a March election. “If we were to have elections, by now the proclamations would have been made,” he said on 8 December. Constitutionally, President Mugabe is mandated to announce election dates, but he had not done so at the time of publication.

“Even if we were to use the current constitution, there would be need for a delimitation commission to draw [electoral] boundaries, and we have to do voter registration,” Ncube explained. “Delimitation alone would take two months, and there would be need for a report on it which will have to be considered [by parliament]. It is not possible to have an election in March, even if we abandon the process of making a new constitution,” Ncube added. According to him, elections can only be held between July and September 2013. Prime Minister Tsvangirai agrees. “There cannot be elections before June 2013,” he said in early December.

In the meantime, President Mugabe has been rallying the Zanu PF faithful to get ready for elections. “We are now like a wounded beast and you know how a wounded beast should fight,” he told the party’s Gweru conference in early December. “Let’s fight back and restore our honour, our pride…we do not have to take up spears in order to win,” he added. “No violence. Let’s have a peaceful election. Let our policies be the spear. We are now mature people and proud of our enlightenment and education.”


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