Critics slam Mugabe’s ‘unrealistic’ election date

There has been ongoing criticism of Robert Mugabe’s intentions to hold elections in March 2013, with civil society groups warning this date is ‘unrealistic’ and ‘impossible’.

Mugabe has stated in court papers that he intends to hold a general election next March after a constitutional referendum in November this year. His legal team has used this as the justification to seek an extension on a court ordered deadline to call for by-elections for vacant constituencies across the country.

The ZANU PF leader was originally ordered to call for the by-elections by Monday, after three MPs last year successfully challenged his refusal to do so. Mugabe’s legal team has insisted there isn’t money to have by-elections in all the constituencies where there is a vacancy, with 39 constituency vacancies and 27 Parliamentary seat vacancies. Observers have said that if Mugabe does call for by-elections to cover all theses vacancies, this would amount to a mini general election.

Mugabe instead has unilaterally decided to hold actual general elections next March, according to court papers submitted by his legal team last week. His partners in the unity government, the MDC formations, have both said this is not a final decision because there has been no consultation with its leadership.

Civic groups have also said elections in March will not be free and fair, because of the lack of key reforms that still need to take place by then. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has said in a statement that it is “adamant that logistically it (elections in March) is impossible.”

“Logistically, the timing of the elections is impossible given a number of fundamental issues that need time, resources, commitment and the political will to ensure that these elections are conducted in an environment that promotes democracy,” ZESN said.

The group said that elections “must not be called for before substantive electoral reforms take place, including “the reforming of repressive legislation such as Posa and Aippa that hinder on respect and upholding of fundamental freedoms.”

“In addition, there is need to ensure that Presidential Powers are removed in respect of elections. Another critical issue is an end to violence and intimidation, in particular the dismantling of all structures of violence in all communities,” ZESN said.

According to Phillip Pasirayi, from the Centre for Community Development, the ZESN position has been adopted by other civic groups who have warned that without the proper reforms, there is no chance of a free election.

“There are very serious questions that have not received the adequate answers. As long as we don’t have proper reforms, the elections will be an exercise in futility,” Pasirayi said. SW radio Africa

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