Parties in fix over election running mates

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Staff Writer

THE clause in the new draft constitution which stipulates presidential election candidates must select running mates who automatically become vice-presidents if the principal candidate wins, has thrown the two main political parties –– Zanu PF and MDC-T –– into a quandary.    
The clause, which deals with transitional mechanisms in the event of a president resigning or dying, forces the two political parties to deal with their simmering succession issues which have fuelled factionalism and infighting.
The draft states if a president dies, resigns or is removed from office, the first vice-president must take the oath of office within 48 hours. The first vice-president assumes office as president until the expiry of his/her predecessor ’s term, while a second vice-president becomes first vice-president.
Insiders say the provision has left Zanu PF and MDC-T in a serious dilemma as their leaders would have to show their succession preferences through their running mates.
They say the parties are now debating whether to follow their party hierarchy, which would mean fielding a weaker team during elections, or amend their party constitutions to allow their members to choose the top three strongest candidates to spearhead the campaign and run for  government offices.
Although Zanu PF has a leader with two vice-presidents who could go in as a team, debate has erupted about the strength of a campaign line-up featuring the aged and frail  President Robert Mugabe and his co-vice-presidents, Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo, who is also ailing.
While others want Mugabe to maintain this team, there is strong resistance from the faction led by politburo heavyweight Emmerson Mnangagwa which wants a different formula from the hierarchy used to select running mates.
There is also debate as to whether Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai would go in with his deputy Thokozani Khupe and chairman Lovemore Moyo if the pecking order is to be followed. The majority apparently wants secretary-general Tendai Biti to be one of the running mates, but that would require constitutional or political interventions as Moyo is senior to Biti.
Sources said Zanu PF is already debating the possibility of an extraordinary congress to address the issue. A senior politburo member yesterday said the party might have to call for an extraordinary congress to “endorse” the presidential candidate and elect his running mates.
“A special congress might have to solve this issue,” the official said.
“There are too many things to consider. There is the regional balance to consider, the 1987 Unity Accord and the gender issue, as one of the vice-presidents has to be a woman.”

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