Robert Mugabe accused of frog marching Zimbabweans towards another ‘illegitimate and violent’ election
President invokes powers to bypass parliament and declare elections to be
held by the end of July
BY DANIEL HOWDEN
President Robert Mugabe has been accused of “frog marching” Zimbabweans
towards another “illegitimate and violent” election after unilaterally
declaring 31 July as polling day.
Morgan Tsvangirai, his political rival and prime minister in the power
sharing government that followed the last election, has opposed snap
elections saying they would violate the country’s new constitution.
Mr Tsvangirai, who was informed by letter of the election date warned that
key reforms to the media, security services and voters’ roll had not been
carried out. He fears that the push for early elections aims to exploit
loopholes that will allow his opponents to rig the election. The prime
minister said the earliest legal date for an election was 25 August. He
described the attempt to push through an early vote as “a clear, flagrant
and fraudulent breach of our Constitution.”
Earlier in the day Mr Mugabe unilaterally changed several aspects of the
election law including reducing the registration period, which began on
Monday from 30 days to 17. Zimbabwe’s highest court surprised observers in
May by calling for elections to be held no later than the end of June
despite a host of agreed reforms still waiting to be implemented. The
89-year-old Mr Mugabe is a past master of using procedure to throttle any
challenge to his authority. The bulk of the reforms agreed to in peace talks
five years ago, mediated by South Africa, have been hollowed out or entirely
The old political foes have been been locked in a dysfunctional unity
government that was agreed under pressure from regional powers including
South Africa in the aftermath of violent and disputed elections in 2008. Mr
Tsvangirai won the first round of the last polls but withdrew from a run-off
against Mr Mugabe after a concerted campaign of violence and intimidation
against his supporters.
Despite delivering some comparative economic stability, Mr Tsvangirai’s
Movement for Democratic Change has had little influence over the courts, the
media or the security services which are still controlled completely by the
president’s Zany-PF party. An extraordinary summit of regional leaders has
been called to discuss the forthcoming elections but has twice been delayed
to accommodate Mr Mugabe.
“It is now clear that President Mugabe called for the postponement in order
to go to SADC with a done deal of an election date,” said Mr Tsvangirai.
“Thus clearly, President Mugabe has sought to render the forthcoming SADC
summit a dead rubber and a talk show.”