EMBATTLED President Robert Mugabe reportedly intends to extend the date of the anticipated presidential election run-off by 90 days after Saturdayâ€™s polls failed to produce a clear winner.
Impeccable sources said Mugabe lost the presidential race to the MDCâ€™s Morgan Tsvangirai, but the opposition leaderâ€™s votes fall short of the legally required 50% plus, prompting a run-off between the two within 21 days from the day of the last polling.
Tsvangirai won against Mugabe, former Finance minister Simba Makoni and little-known Langton Towungana. While the MDC claims 50,3% of the vote, the likely figure is closer to 49% to Mugabeâ€™s 43%.
The run-off should be held on or before April 19, but the sources said Mugabe and his close advisors from the countryâ€™s state security agencies want Mugabe to use his presidential powers to amend the Electoral Act to have the election re-run after 90 days and meanwhile rule by decree.
The sources revealed that Mugabe was not aware of the run-off provision in the Electoral Act until it was published in the media a few months before the Saturday elections.
Mugabe, the sources said, has argued that it is not logistically feasible to have a presidential poll within the stipulated 21 days.
He reportedly argued that time to prepare for the election had already been lost due to the counting of the harmonised presidential, legislative and council elections by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
At the time of going to press yesterday, the ZEC had only announced results of the House of Assembly elections, but was mum on senate and presidential poll results. Local government election results were announced at ward level.
However, it has become a matter of public knowledge that Mugabe lost the election and that the ZEC was cushioning the defeat by not rushing to release the results.
â€œMugabe and his advisors are toying with the idea of having the run-off in 90 days,â€ one of the sources said. â€œThe president, however, is of the opinion that if the opposition thinks that three months is too long, he would settle for a month.â€
Before the run-off, the sources said, Mugabe intends to rule by decree because he dissolved parliament and his cabinet on March 28.
The Zanu PF first secretary would be expected to be helped in discharging his duties by service chiefs and this would be tantamount to military rule.
A senior constitutional lawyer based in Harare yesterday said the constitution empowered Mugabe to change any law at anytime.
â€œThroughout the world, at any one point a country should always have a president,â€ the lawyer said. â€œThe president is empowered at any given time to discharge the powers vested in him. Mugabe can amend any law.â€
The lawyer, however, said political morality demanded that Mugabe as a candidate should not amend laws to give himself an unfair advantage.
Nelson Chamisa, the MDC spokesman,yesterday said his party was not aware of Mugabeâ€™s plans and maintained that Tsvangirai had won the presidential election.
â€œWe are not aware of his plans, but let me emphasise that we won the election,â€ Chamisa said. â€œWe have the necessary majority and we do not know what Mugabe is up to. We have the constitutional majority.â€
The sources said Mugabe was not aware of the run-off provision in the Electoral Act until recently and was averse to it, but there was nothing he could do to change the provision when the presidential election was just around the corner.
Speaking soon after casting his votes at Mhofu Primary School in Highfield, Harare, Mugabe made it public that he was not in favour of the run-off.
Both local and international media quoted Mugabe saying he did not see the necessity of a run-off.
The ageing leader reportedly said: â€œWe are not used to boxing matches where we go from one round to another round. We just knock each other out in the first roundâ€¦ thatâ€™s how we have done it in the past,Â that is how we will do it this time.
â€œThis second round, I donâ€™t know. It is our constitutional lawyers who brought itâ€¦What they should have done is to look at what the president gets, combining that with what his party gets, and the sum total should (provide) the winner.â€
Sources said the run-off provision was promulgated into law through an amendment in 2002 to the Electoral Act. Mugabeâ€™s trusted lieutenant Emmerson Mnangagwa and then Information and Publicity minister Jonathan Moyo reportedly sought the amendment.
By Constantine Chimakure