HARARE – Notwithstanding the rumpus in their camp over the lack of progress in consummating a coalition, opposition parties have said they are prepared for next year’s synchronised polls, even if President Robert Mugabe is to proclaim election dates earlier than expected.
Mugabe is expected to proclaim election dates much earlier than had been expected to capitalise on the confusion within the opposition movement, while at the same time riding on the wave of popularity captured in recent surveys.
With opposition political parties haggling over who should lead their mooted grand coalition, Zanu PF is removing all the stops in its bid to retain power at the 2018 elections.
Mugabe’s party has resisted reforms that could have levelled the electoral playing field, and has maintained its stranglehold on the State media, which it uses at its propaganda machinery.
Regardless, opposition political parties told the Daily News yesterday that they are more than prepared for the elections.
The Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC said they are on the ground and are as prepared as ever for the elections.
“The MDC is a massive political party that is always on the ground every time and everywhere. We have got structures all over the country and we are ready to give Zanu PF a thorough thrashing at next year’s polls,” MDC spokesperson, Obert Gutu, said yesterday.
Gutu, however, said that they will push all eligible Zimbabweans to register to vote, adding that they are confident that the majority will vote against Zanu PF.
“We are acutely aware of the fact that the Zanu PF dictatorship will never, ever reform itself out of power but our push for electoral reforms remains determined and relentless. Zanu PF is deeply fractured and factionalised and indeed, there are better chances of Obert Gutu falling pregnant than Zanu PF’s chances of winning elections next year,” Gutu said.
The smaller MDC faction led by Welshman Ncube is also exuding confidence ahead of the elections.
“The MDC structures are ready to roll in the event … Mugabe calls for elections. A torrid time is in store for Mugabe and Zanu PF,” the party’s spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwayi, said yesterday.
The Zanu PF youth league has since set the party’s campaign machine rolling with the ongoing youth interface rallies attracting bumper crowds for Mugabe, who wants to extend his rule at the helm of government beyond the current 37 years.
With Zanu PF seemingly covering ground ahead of the elections, Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said that the political situation requires the opposition to always be ready for an election.
“We are at a stage where we as opposition have to be ready for an election any time because the country cannot go on like this. This country has always called elections in an irregular manner and we have always beat Zanu PF.
“If they call it now, their record in government has been so bad even their own wives would not vote for them,” PDP spokesperson Jacob Mafume said.
Joice Mujuru’s National People Party (NPP) said they were ready on all fronts just as good as the Zimbabweans are also ready to go to the polls.
“Mugabe’s stay in power is long overdue. And when we talk of readiness in terms of the coalition, it is work in progress and I can assure Zimbabweans, that the coalition is good as done and we are ready for elections,” Mujuru’s spokesperson, Gift Nyandoro, said.
Section 158 of the Constitution provides that “a general election must be held so that polling takes place not more than 30 days before the expiry of the five year period specified in Section 143”.
While expectations were that Mugabe will declare elections between July 23 and August 21, 2018, Zanu PF insiders are convinced that he will make the proclamation earlier to catch the opposition napping.
In the previous election, Mugabe was forced to proclaim the election dates after a Harare man, Jealousy Mawarire, approached the Constitutional Court just a few months before July 31, 2013.
According to Veritas, an organisation that gives information on the work of courts and Parliament, the president has the prerogative of setting the date for the general elections, but he must do so within the parameters fixed by the Constitution and the Electoral Act for polling date and the length of time between the proclamation and polling.
“Section 157 of the Constitution, stipulates the minimum period from proclamation to nomination date (14 days), and from nomination date to polling date (30 days). That is, there has to be a minimum of 44 days from the proclamation date to polling.
“Section 38 of the Electoral Act stipulates a maximum 84 days between proclamation and polling. So the proclamation must be not less than 44 and not more than 84 days before the polling day chosen. Based on the earliest polling date of July 23, 2018 the proclamation must be gazetted in the period April 30, to June 9,2018,” Veritas said.
The organisation said that the calling for elections is an executive function, which does not need the president to consult with the Cabinet.