Zimbabwe is likely to postpone a parliamentary election that President Robert Mugabe’s party wanted by mid-year in order to allow completion of constitutional reforms, a state-owned newspaper reports.
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party endorsed plans to call early polls two weeks ago, despite strong opposition from rivals that the political climate was not right for a free and fair vote. The Sunday Mail newspaper, which is tightly controlled by ZANU-PF officials, quoted unidentified sources saying it was not feasible to hold elections in the first half of 2011 and that Zimbabwe had said so to fellow members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) weeks ago.
“Sources yesterday said it was highly unlikely that the polls will be held before June as the crafting of the new supreme law looks certain to spill into the second half of the year,” the weekly said, citing also what it called “intervening complications” in the implementation of Zimbabwe’s power-sharing agreement.
ZANU-PF officials were unavailable on Sunday to comment, Reuters says. Mugabe, 86, and arch rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were forced into a coalition government two years ago after a disputed 2008 election which had exacerbated a severe economic crisis.
The unity government, which also includes a small MDC faction led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, is credited with stabilising an economy crushed by hyperinflation and reducing political tension. But the coalition has been hobbled by quarrels over the pace of political reforms, policies and state positions, and Mugabe has said he sees no need to extend the coalition beyond the middle of this year.
In private, both ZANU-PF and MDC legislators have been lobbying against a 2011 election that will cut short their five-year term for the second time after the previous tenure ended prematurely in 2008 following a 2005 vote.
Critics say rushed polls 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.