Tsvangirai backs 2011 polls

2010-09-16 14:34

Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, said today that he supported elections being held next year despite fears that there could be a repeat of the violence that had characterised all elections in the southern African country for the past decade.

“There is no better time for elections,” an upbeat Tsvangirai told a group of investors, analysts and journalists at a conference on Zimbabwe in Johannesburg. He did not give possible dates.

Before elections can be held, Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government has to draft a new constitution and submit it for vote in a referendum. That process is running months behind schedule.

The two governing parties also had to agree on a road map of reforms that would establish the conditions for free and fair elections, Tsvangirai said.

These included an end to election violence, the establishment of an independent electoral commission and a commitment that “the outcome is announced not after five weeks, but five days”.

During the last elections in March 2008, which Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won, the electoral commission announced the results only after five weeks while thugs in President Robert Mugabe’s party, Zanu-PF, and the security forces waged a campaign of retribution against MDC supporters.

Tsvangirai acknowledged that distrust of the security forces, which Zanu-PF still controls, was a hurdle to holding free and fair elections.

In a recent opinion poll, a whopping 40% of Zimbabweans refused to say how they would vote in an election – a proportion that pointed to persistently high levels of fear among voters.

“Discussions are taking place to build confidence” in the security forces, the prime minister said.

Asked whether Mugabe would allow Western observers to monitor the elections, Tsvangirai was non-committal, saying monitors were “just one aspect of the election”.

Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the power-sharing agreement that underpins Zimbabwe’s unity government.

Zanu-PF and the MDC agreed on a coalition government to try to end a decade of political violence and economic decay.

As part of the agreement, Mugabe agreed to the implementation of a raft of human rights and economic reforms. However, two years later, only a fraction of the reforms have been implemented.

Tsvangirai appealed to the international community to be patient. “It is easy to forget the madness of the previous decade.”

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