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Set poll dates by consensus

SINCE Independence in 1980 Zimbabwe’s general elections have frequently been dogged by controversy and accusations of violence and intimidation.

The Zimbabwe Independent Opinion

The idea of fair play and a level playing field is alien to Zanu PF.
Right now the biggest public row in Zimbabwe is when general elections should be held.

President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF are determined to force elections by June 29 — before full implementation of the elections roadmap.

What is so magical about June 29 that Mugabe and Zanu PF now seem to have locked their fate to it? Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa recently said he will not entertain the holding of elections after June 29 unless “circumstances beyond my control happen”.

“We have a deadline to meet (June 29) and we have to abide by what the law says. The simple fact is that we are not overflowing into July or any day further than the expiry of the constitutional term of parliament,” he said.

Why does Chinamasa think Zimbabweans must entertain his idea of holding elections on a date of his choice even if it is not feasible?

Current set-down processes, such as the ongoing constitution-making and stalled reform agenda which his party has been resisting since the formation of the coalition government in 2009, will actually determine the timeframe for polls, not Chinamasa or Mugabe.

No one disputes that parliament’s five-year term automatically expires on June 29, but the constitution does not say elections should be held on that very day.

There is a constitutional provision of four months within which elections must be held — meaning that Zimbabwe has up to the end of October to hold the decisive polls in terms of the current constitution, although the new constitution will kick in.

Chinamasa knows elections cannot be held on June 29 because all processes currently in motion would not have fully run their course. General elections are different from a referendum and require greater preparations.

For example, a compulsory voter education programme has to be conducted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission countrywide before elections.

The argument over issues like the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee is a mere diversionary tactic. The real issue is about reforms, which Zanu PF has been resisting, while the two MDC formations have been inexplicably relaxing their demands.

The MDC parties seem to have fallen asleep on the job. There was a time they strongly insisted on implementation of all agreed reforms under the Global Political Agreement, including the election roadmap, but it is now Sadc raising these issues more than them.

Sadc has rejected the June election timeframe, arguing the roadmap would determine poll dates. What are the MDC parties doing about political violence and the presence of soldiers in villages where they are reportedly convening illegal political meetings and campaigning for Zanu PF?

The sooner the MDC leaders keep their eyes on the ball and Mugabe and Zanu PF officials realise that election dates can only be fixed by consensus as determined by the roadmap, the better for the country.

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