Mugabe Calls Election Designed To Regain Control Of Parliament

GOVERNMENT’S pronouncement at the weekend that it will call for fresh harmonised elections if Constitutional Amendment No19  fails to get through parliament is premised on President Robert Mugabe’s desire to resolve the ineffectuality of his presidency without the control of the House of Assembly.

Political analysts said without the control of parliament, Mugabe’s presidency would be ineffectual in the long run and hence the threat of fresh elections if the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC uses its legislators in the House to block the passage of the Bill.

The Bill was gazetted on Saturday to give legal effect to the September 15 power-sharing deal between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and the leader of the smaller formation of the MDC, Arthur Mutambara.

On Monday, MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti said his party would not support the Bill in parliament until outstanding issues on the power-sharing deal are resolved, adding that they would welcome a fresh presidential poll as long as it takes place under international supervision.

Among the sticking points Biti cited were the allocation of ministerial positions, appointment of governors and the constitutive composition of the National Security Council.

“The call for an election is an honest submission by Zanu PF that it can’t be the government of the day,” Biti told journalists in Harare. “However, the only unfinished business is the run-off presidential election of June 27, not the harmonised elections of March 29. The next election should be done under international supervision of the United Nations, African Union and Sadc.”

Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean lawyer based in the UK, said Zanu PF was now talking of new elections to deal with its major handicap — the inability to control the House of Assembly, where the two MDC formations enjoy a simple majority.

“There are two centres of power right now — the presidency and parliament,” Magaisa observed. “Zanu PF controls the presidency, but the MDCs control the key part of parliament — the House of Assembly.”
He said Zanu PF had never faced this situation before and had no clue how it could manage the country without control of parliament.
“I am very certain that if Zanu PF had control of parliament, they would have done what they did previously and gone ahead to form a government. After all, they are still in power!” Magaisa argued. “So an election would seem to be a way to wrest control of parliament from the MDC to ensure that it can do as it wishes — kuita madiro akamba, as we say in Shona!”

Some of the analysts said it seemed Zanu PF was not serious on having fresh elections, but realised that options for it were limited.

“The writing is on the wall and clearly without the support of MDC-T, no inclusive government can be put in place and more importantly the Sadc resolution is quite explicit that no party can proceed unilaterally,” Zimbabwe-born South Africa businessman Mutumwa Mawere argued.

“It is Zanu PF that needs legitimacy and, therefore, it is not in a position to threaten anyone, but must acknowledge the reality of what is at stake. It is MDC-T that wants fresh presidential elections and not general elections as Zanu PF is now proposing.”

Mawere said Mugabe knew that the world would not embrace him without the cover of an inclusive government.

“He also knows that it would be risky to proceed with presidential elections without the general election, as this will not give him the two years that he would want prior to the general elections,” Mawere observed. “If the constitutional amendment fails to pass in parliament, Mugabe has geared himself to run for at least two years on the basis that a general election would be the minimum required to resolve the political impasse.”

Magaisa was of the opinion that Mugabe intended to use violence to win the elections if they were to be held.

He argued: “They will up the ante in terms of violence and intimidation and seek to win at all costs. They will not accept international supervision; rather it will be more of the charade we have seen in the past and although it will solve absolutely nothing, it will give Zanu PF and Mugabe a platform to rule without being hamstrung by a powerful opposition.

“Right now Zanu PF’s biggest problem is not that the economy is in very bad shape but that for the purposes of power they cannot control what goes on in parliament. If they did, they would just go ahead and form a government as if everything were normal.”

University of Zimbabwe political science professor Eldred Masunungure said Zanu PF’s dangling of the prospect of fresh elections was part of its brinkmanship.

“As things stand now, I view this option as more of theoretical than an empirical possibility,” Masunungure said. “It is possible, but highly improbable. In any case, Zanu PF is at its weakest since Independence and it would be suicidal for the party to call elections in an environment of multiple crises that are all blamed on it.

The party can only be serious with calling for elections if it has developed suicidal tendencies.”
He argued that national resources were not also available for the elections.

“I don’t see Sadc or the African Union endorsing such a reckless decision,” Masunungure predicted.
Another political scientist Michael Mhike said the power-sharing deal was on the verge of collapsing and would be very difficult to salvage given the position of the MDC-T on the one hand and that of Zanu PF and the Sadc on the other.

 “Every time I look on the horizon I see the sun setting on Zimbabwe as far as the global political agreement is concerned,” Mhike said. “And I fear it will be a very long and dark night before we see sunrise. That’s not only because of Zanu PF’s intransigence but also because of what appears to be a lack of proper direction within the MDC.”

He argued that the MDC had a clear choice — to go ahead with the unity government deal or to cut ties completely and look for other strategies, if any.

Magaisa agreed with Mhike and said the recent MDC-T national executive resolutions did not show much light on the power-sharing pact.

“They (MDC-T) complain bitterly about the fundamental breaches of the deal and say the negotiations are stalled, but just the week before they were in Pretoria discussing the Bill and we heard thereafter that it was left to the principals to finalise the small details,” Magaisa said.  “Yet they threaten to oppose it in parliament and still quite incredibly, say they are still committed to the negotiation process, even whilst it expresses anger at the abductions and the handling of the cholera epidemic. Where are we exactly?”

He said it seemed the MDC-T was sticking to the charade of the talks only because they have no other viable option.

Masunungure was of the opinion that the power-sharing agreement could be rescued and accused the MDC-T of grandstanding and engaging in its own brinkmanship by asserting that it wont support the Bill.
“The reality on the ground is that there are no real alternatives to the deal, this is true of the MDC-T as it is of Zanu PF,” he added.

Masunungure said if fresh elections have to be held they should be harmonised.

“Calling for one election automatically triggers all the four elections (in line with Constitutional Amendment No18) unless if it’s a by-election. You ought to realise that even though the presidential run-off was controversial and produced highly contestable results, it marked the end (legally) of the whole set of elections,” he explained.

While the haggling for power continues, pressure is mounting in the region, continent and internationally on Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara to put their differences aside and form the inclusive government to deal with the country’s deepening political and humanitarian crisis.  

On Saturday, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said the gazetting of the amendment would pave the way for the formation of an inclusive government.

Motlanthe is also chairman of Sadc which at a summit last month said it had resolved the remaining differences toward forming a unity government in Zimbabwe.

The African Union last week encouraged all three parties to go into government as soon as possible.

BY CONSTANTINE CHIMAKURE