Outcome of Mugabe meeting : Plans to buy time

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ZANU-PF party has decided that its leader Robert Mugabe should contest a run-off vote against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai if neither wins a majority in a presidential election.

from our correspondent in Harare

The party politburo met for close to five hours at its headquarters to discuss Mugabe’s next move to face the greatest crisis of his 28-year rule.

The party’s top leaders met to decide how to react to election results that have yet to be announced, six days after the presidential poll.
The opposition MDC claims its leader received enough votes to win outright.

Emerging from the meeting Zanu-PF administration secretary Didymus Mutasa said there would be a re-run if the election commission “compels us” He admitted that the revolutionary party is “ down but not out,”
“Absolutely the candidate will be Robert Gabriel Mugabe – who else would it be other than our dear old man?” he said

However the emergency meeting was delayed by to hours after hours as members present it could not make a quorum.

By 10 am, the scheduled time, only 10 members had turned up. It only kicked off around launch time with 31 members.

Robert Mugabe arrived well on time. This time the cheering women’s league members were there to greet him.

Journalists were told to leave the politburo meeting after Mugabe formally opened proceedings.

“Our meeting is now called to order,” he said. Before taking the chair, Mugabe could be seen cracking jokes with some of the politburo members, telling one who lost his parliamentary seat: “You were
struck by lightning.”

Three issues topped ZANU PF emergency meeting agenda. The 49-member Politburo was split on whether Mugabe should fight on amid claims by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai that he has won.

The election commission has to announce the presidential election result by the end of Friday to meet a legal deadline.

Plans to postpone run-off

A camp on Mugabe’s side is led by Zimbabwe Defence Force chief Constantine Chiwenga and police commissioner Augustine Chihuri. It is understood to be urging Mugabe to move to a second round of voting, extend the constitutionally determined interim period by decree from 21 days to 90 days and use the time to bludgeon opposition voters into submission.

The other Cabinet-based camp — said to include Minister of Defence Sidney Sekeramayi, Intelligence Minister Didymus Mutasa is apparently pressing Mugabe to acknowledge defeat and negotiate a set of transitional and security arrangements.

Several ruling party sources say that three options were discussed: a
negotiated, immediate departure for Mugabe; a second round of voting by April 19 as required by law if no candidate has a majority; or a 90-day state of emergency in hopes of improving conditions before an eventual runoff.

Finances might hamper run-off

But the dire state of Zimbabwe’s finances makes organizing a second round of voting difficult, sources said. Some ruling party officials are arguing that a runoff this month is impractical and that Mugabe must use emergency presidential powers to delay that vote until June or July.

ZANU-PF lost control of parliament for the first time in elections last Saturday but no results have so far emerged from the presidential vote, prompting opposition suspicions that Mugabe is trying to engineer a way out of the crisis.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says Tsvangirai won an absolute majority in the presidential vote and should be declared president, ending Mugabe’s long rule since independence in 1980.
ZANU-PF and independent projections show Tsvangirai winning the presidential vote but falling short of the absolute majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Winning at all cost

One politburo member, speaking anonymously after the meeting, favoured a run-off while acknowledging the MDC had inflicted a major blow.

“We had under-estimated the [opposition] threat, but this time we will
properly strategise for the run-off, and we will get it, without doubt.
There is increasing impatience in Zimbabwe at a six-day wait for the results of the presidential election.

The MDC said it would ask the High Court to order the immediate release of the results.

Mugabe faces deep discontent as Zimbabwe suffers the world’s highest inflation rate of more than 100,000 percent, a virtually worthless currency and severe food and fuel shortages.

A runoff should be held on April 19, three weeks after the elections, but civil society groups said Mugabe plans to extend that to 90 days to buy time to regroup.

Latest results

Meanwhile, according to the latests senatorial results announced at 6:30 pm, the ruling ZANU-PF was leading with 21 seats against the opposition MDC’s 18 with the breakaway MDC faction 4.

A total of 60 seats are being contested. No official results have been published yet from the presidential election, also held on March 29.

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