Zim presidential run-off in August

Nokhutula Sibanda
HARARE - Zimbabwe's eagerly awaited presidential run-off election will now be held in the first week of August after the government extended the period within which the poll was due by 90 days in a special gazette published on Wednesday.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said in the government gazette: “Not withstanding Section 110 of the Electoral Act, the period within which a second election for the office of the president (should be held) is hereby extended from 21 days to 90 days from the date of announcement of results of the first poll.”

Official results of the first round March 29 presidential election – which showed opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai winning but failing to garner more than 50 percent of the vote to capture the presidency from President Robert Mugabe – were announced on May 2.

The Electoral Act prescribes that when none of the contestants fails to garner more than 50 percent of the vote a second round ballot between the two candidates with the highest number of votes should be held within 21 days.

But the Act provides for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to extend the period when it deems it necessary.

Tsvangirai starts as favourite to win the August 2 run-off poll after garnering 47.8 percent against Mugabe’s 43.2 percent in the first round election.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party also defeated Mugabe’s ruling ZANU PF party in a parallel parliamentary poll, winning 109 seats to end the ruling party’s 28-year dominance of Parliament.

ZANU PF won 97 seats.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told international media that the extension was a ploy by Mugabe’s government to buy more time to commit violence in a bid to intimidate voters to grant the veteran leader another fifth term in office.

It is part of a programme to give Mugabe and ZANU PF time to torment and continue a campaign of violence on the MDC,” Chamisa said.

John Makumbe, a University of Zimbabwe political scientist and Mugabe critic, described the long extension as unfortunate for a nation that had witnessed violence on a large scale since the March vote.

“It means the regime will be going to be hammering innocent people as well as working out on its rigging mechanism,” Makumbe told ZimOnline last night.

Makumbe said the extension meant international observers – who are key to stopping political violence – could only be able to come into the country at a much later stage.

“It means that elections will not be free and fair and the environment will not be good for the holding of free and fair elections,” Makumbe said.

There was no immediate reaction to the new election date from ZANU PF.

Political violence broke out in many parts of Zimbabwe almost immediately it became clear that the MDC and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai had defeated Mugabe and his ZANU PF party in the March polls.

The MDC, Western governments and human rights groups have accused Mugabe of unleashing ZANU PF militias and the army to beat and torture Zimbabweans into backing him in a second round presidential ballot.

The MDC says 32 of its members were killed in the violence while thousands others have been displaced.

However, the government denies committing violence and says it is the opposition that has carried out violence in a bid to tarnish Mugabe’s name. -ZimOnline.

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