Tsvangirai plays down talk of early election by Mugabe

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday moved to dampen down speculation about an early general election, as demanded by President Robert Mugabe.


Last week the ZANU PF leader told a meeting of his central committee that elections will be held this year, with or without the new constitution.

He said the country will go for a referendum in May. If there isn’t a referendum then the country will revert to the Lancaster House Constitution and hold elections before the end of the year.

But at his monthly press briefing in Harare, Tsvangirai insisted that his full attention was focused on ensuring that reforms are carried out first before the GPA leaders can call for an election.

‘We continue to work towards the next election, albeit with sharp differences over the nature and complexion of that election.

‘There has been slow movement on reforms as our colleagues view any reform as a form of conceding power. For us, reforms are a fulfilment of what we agreed upon and signed up to, both in the GPA and in the roadmap that was facilitated by SADC,’ the Prime Minister said.

As GPA principals, Tsvangirai said they were expecting a draft of the constitution, which he said was one of the key reforms before a poll can be held.

‘I wish to restate what I said in Parliament recently that while individual political parties may claim to want an election without a new constitution, there is no such position in government,’ he said.

Douglas Mwonzora, Tsvangirai’s party spokesman, told SW Radio Africa that Mugabe’s deadline for a referendum by May was not realistic, because of mandatory time limits set in the GPA.

‘It’s a tight deadline. In fact it does not make sense, even if we were to finish the constitution today (Monday). This is because we have mandatory time limits in the GPA and mandatory processes before you go to a referendum,’ Mwonzora said.

The MDC-T MP for Nyanga North, and co-chairman of COPAC, explained that the constitution has to be subjected to a second all stakeholders conference, that must be convened within a month of releasing the final draft. That draft is expected to be released before the end of next week.

‘For an example, after we release the draft this April, we will need a month to give people an opportunity to read this document and appreciate it. Then after that it goes to parliament where it is debated again for another month, and once that is done, the draft is subjected to a referendum,’ the MP said.

He continued: ‘If you add all these time limits, you see that the May deadline that the President talks about is very, very unrealistic. The earliest time we can have a referendum is between August and September.’

Analysts believe that an election without reforms would go against repeated SADC summits and would alienate Mugabe from the regional bloc.

Political commentator Bekithemba Mhlanga told us Mugabe risks losing the support of SADC if he decides to push for an election without the bloc’s support.

‘Without SADC support I don’t see Mugabe going for an election. The best he could do now is speed up the process and have an election before the year, but under a new constitution,’ Mhlanga said. – SW Radio Africa News

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