Country Report Zimbabwe September 2010

The political scene: The timing of the election remains a matter of debate

It also seems unlikely that Mr Mugabe, the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, and Arthur Mutambara, the leader of the small and increasingly irrelevant MDC-M faction, will accommodate another of Mr Zuma's demands-that new elections be held by the end of 2011. Both Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai insist that they want elections sooner rather than later-although both are believed to prefer the status quo-but Mr Mutambara is adamant that free and fair polls are impossible until further political reforms are in place, and that elections before 2012 are therefore infeasible.

He is backed by the Electoral Commission established under the GPA. Its chairman, Judge Simpson Mutambanengwe, believes that it will not be possible to draw up a new voters' roll and organise elections in 2011, partly because there is no money available for the process. "Ultimately, the economy of the country will determine when and whether we hold elections," he has said. Under the GPA, a new constitution must be designed and approved at a referendum before fresh elections are held. The constitutional affairs minister, Eric Matinenga (MDC), hopes that the draft constitution will be completed by end-2010 or early 2011, but this looks optimistic given that the "outreach" programme, which should have been completed months ago, is bogged down in disputes over procedures and funding, and threatened by the intimidation of people wishing to make their views known. At the end of August the programme was extended by a further 23 days-in addition to the original 65-day programme-and Mr Matinenga said that he expected Copac, the parliamentary select committee that is managing the process, to complete this phase of its work by the first week of October. Thereafter, a number of "thematic committees" will draw up a report that will then be converted into a constitution by a team of legal drafters. That will then be taken to an "all stakeholders" conference for approval before being submitted to parliament, which will then have to approve the document. A referendum should be held within three months of the constitution being gazetted. This is a "best-case" scenario and is unlikely to be achieved, but even if it is possible to hold a referendum in the second quarter of 2011 Zimbabwe is unlikely to go to the polls until April 2012, and possibly even later given the need to complete voter registration and constituency delimitation.

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