Zimbabwe’s electoral commission says it is waiting for the nod from President Robert Mugabe to organize parliamentary and presidential elections in 2011.
“Our mandate is to implement presidential proclamations as and when they are made. If a proclamation is made, we implement it” acting Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Joyce Kazembe said on October 20.
The announcement comes a week after Mugabe said he wanted elections on a government to replace the 20-month-old unity government he formed with former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to be held by mid-2011.
Before elections can be held, however, Zimbabweans have to vote on a new constitution, the drafting of which has been severely delayed by at-times violent disagreements between the coalition parties over the content.
Mugabe has already ordered Finance Minister Tendai Biti to set aside $200 million in next year’s budget for the polls.
The current situation is raising fears that Zimbabwe is headed for another bloodbath as Mugabe pushes for elections next year – with or without a new and democratic Constitution seen as critical to ensuring that any new polls are bloodless.
But why rush for an election?
“It’s obvious that Mugabe and ZANU PF will try to capitalise on the constant disputes with the MDC to force an early election where they will unleash their forces of darkness on the hapless electorate,”
“There is no way we can have a new constitution by the time the term of the inclusive government ends in February 2011 given the myriad of problems COPAC (Constitutional Parliamentary Committee) has faced since the committee was set up in April last year,” said Harare-based political analyst Alfred Manzini.
Analysts warn that trying to fast-track the Constitution drafting process would produce a flawed document that does not reflect the changes demanded by Zimbabweans.
The premier, Morgan Tsvangirai, has also talked up the possibility of elections next year, even as analysts and the business community warn that hasty polls could see a repeat of the political violence and further economic ruin that characterized all elections since 2000.
The last elections in 2008 turned violent after Mugabe’s party lost control of parliament to the MDC and Mugabe was outpolled by Tsvangirai in the first round of voting for president.
On October 15, senior army commanders traditional chiefs, black farmers meet at an army barrack in Harare, to plan how to secure Mugabe’s grip on power.
Zimbabwean chiefs have a history of supporting President Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party.
“Thirty traditional chiefs, senior army senior officers and new farmers are expected to converge at Cranborne Barracks to find ways of retaining Mugabe as president after the next elections expected in 2011,” said a highly placed source within the traditional leadership.
The military, new black farmers that were given expropriated farms and traditional leadership were expected to provide a life-line for Mugabe and ZANU-PF.
A defiant Mugabe on October 14 said he was fed up with the “stupidity” of some of his disputes with Tsvangirai and wanted a delayed constitution-making process speded up to enable elections to be held by mid-2011.
“To give it another life of six months or one year no, no, no,” Mugabe said, referring to the coalition government he formed with Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara in February 2009.
Tsvangirai two weeks ago wrote to the leaders of South Africa, Italy, Sweden, the European Union and United Nations asking them not to recognise six Zimbabwean ambassadors whom he said were unilaterally appointed by Mugabe.
He has also refused to recognise the legitimacy of the chief of police, the central bank governor, the attorney general, 10 ministers and five judges, all appointed by Mugabe alone.