Press reports indicate that President Robert Mugabe has decided to press ahead for elections this year, despite the lack of a new constitution and other reforms designed to forestall a repetition of the electoral violence of 2007. The opposition Movement for Democratic change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai, remains opposed to pre-new constitution elections as does South Africa and much of the international community.
The press reports that the politburo of the ruling ZANU-PF party has approved party primaries for June, with the anointing of Mugabe as the presidential candidate. National elections would then take place before the end of the year. The politburo’s action must still be endorsed by the party’s central committee.
The minister of finance has argued in public that there are insufficient funds to hold an election this year. His objections were swept aside by a party spokesman, who commented that it is the minister’s responsibility to find the money, according to the press.
The press comments that Mugabe intends to use these elections in part to punish those party members who talked freely to American diplomats about internal party divisions. Wikileaks released classified reports of those conversations.
When to hold elections has been a contentious issue within ZANU-PF, with Mugabe wanting them sooner rather than later. In general, the ruling party appears increasingly factionalized. Still, on balance, it is likely that the central committee will endorse the politburo’s decision.
However, early elections are not yet a foregone conclusion. ZANU-PF is far from monolithic.
Also, it remains to be seen what maneuvers Tsvangirai will attempt.
There is also the South Africa factor. President Jacob Zuma has advocated delaying the Zimbabwe elections until the new constitution and other reforms are in place, a position reiterated by the South African foreign minister in parliament last week in Cape Town, to the consternation of Mugabe’s supporters. The South African press reports that personal relations between Mugabe and Zuma are at an all time low, and the South African president is expected to visit Zimbabwe “soon.”
The elections pot is simmering, but it has not yet come to a boil.