Zimbabwe election boss pours cold water on 2011 polls

2010-11-04 15:17

The head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has poured cold water on the prospects for presidential and parliamentary elections next year.

This is despite the fact that President Robert Mugabe said he wanted the votes to take place by the middle of next year.

In an interview with German Press Agency dpa, the chairperson of the commission, Simpson Mutambanengwe, said the ZEC did not have the funding to organise a free and fair ballot.

And even if it did, the process of drafting a new constitution – a precondition for the elections – was running far behind schedule.

“I know politicians have been talking about it, saying there is going to be elections next year,” said Mutambanengwe, a Zimbabwean-born retired Namibia Supreme Court judge.

But only the ZEC could determine whether the conditions for the holding of elections were in place, he said.

Last month Mugabe said he wanted elections to replace the transitional government he formed last year with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to take place by the middle of next year.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti said Mugabe had asked him to set aside $200 million (R1.4 billion) in next year’s 2011 budget for the elections.

But that money, if allocated, would only be made available in January at the earliest.

Mutambanengwe, who was appointed to the head of the ZEC by Mugabe and Tsvangirai, said the ZEC needed the money “immediately”.

“If the funds are made immediately available for us to carry out preliminary operations, then we will be ready to carry on elections.”

One of the biggest challenges facing the ZEC is to overhaul the voters’ roll.

Zimbabwe’s 2008 power-sharing agreement also states that elections can only be held after Zimbabweans vote on a new constitution.

But the process to draft a new constitution is running more than 12 months behind schedule.

“Some of the suggestions that we are going to have elections next year would seem to imply that the elections would be held without a new constitution.”

Mutambanengwe said. “If that is the case, we wait to be advised.”

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