Mugabe party says election may proceed without reforms


President Robert Mugabe’s party said Zimbabwe would go ahead with a general election next year with or without constitutional reforms seen by many as critical to a free and fair vote.

Mugabe, who was forced into a unity government with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after a disputed 2008 poll, sees no need to extend the life of the coalition.

He wants a referendum on a new constitution early next year and a general election by mid-2011, even if the referendum is not held. The election would normally be held in 2013, Reuters reports.

The next election will be the eighth major vote in Zimbabwe since 2000 and critics say a rushed election without political reforms, including a new constitution guaranteeing basic rights, would only favour Mugabe and ZANU-PF, who have held power since independence from Britain in 1980.

ZANU-PF chief spokesman Rugare Gumbo told state media that a Wednesday meeting of the party’s politburo (inner cabinet) chaired by Mugabe had endorsed his drive for early elections, and received a report suggesting that international donors were withholding cash to delay the last stages of the constitutional reforms.
“However, that is neither here nor there. As a party we will find ways around it, but we are very clear that elections will be held,” Gumbo said.
“If they cannot help us write a new constitution we will find ways, but elections will be held before June next year,” he added.

Tsvangirai’s MDC is trying to mobilise regional pressure on Mugabe to deliver on outstanding reforms under the power-sharing agreement, while a small MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara says Zimbabwe must continue with a coalition government for at least another two years to complete reforms and to allow economic recovery.

On Tuesday, the British ambassador in Harare, Mark Canning, said the political climate in Zimbabwe was not yet conducive to a free and fair general election.

The southern African country needed time to work on political reforms, including repealing repressive legislation, opening up the media, introducing new electoral laws, and updating the voter register, Canning said.

Gumbo said ZANU-PF was happy that its supporters had turned up in large numbers to give their views on a new constitution, and the party was now discussing ways to overcome what it calls illegal sanctions imposed on the party by Western powers.

ZANU-PF is set to officially endorse Mugabe, 86, as its presidential candidate at an annual party conference set for mid December.