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Monday, 24 August 2009

Zimbabwe: GNU Parties Seek Election Freeze Extension


Loughty Dube



Harare — THE three political parties in the inclusive government want to extend the one-year moratorium on by-elections by three years, government sources have revealed.

In the global political agreement (GPA) signed by Zanu PF and the two MDC formations last September, the parties agreed not to field candidates against each other for a year stipulating that only the party that previously held the seat could field a candidate. But this does not stop other parties or independent candidates from contesting the seat.

The parties identified elections as the main cause of violence in the country, hence the agreement on the moratorium not to contest against each other in by-elections for a year.

The moratorium lapses on September 15, hence the talks to extend it.

Authoritative government sources told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that the three political parties were now working on extending the moratorium by three years.

"There are negotiations within the inclusive government to extend the moratorium on the holding of by-elections and none of the parties are eager to go for pending by-elections now as the situation is not conducive for all of them," one of the sources said. "There is fear that violence might raise its head at a time when the inclusive government still has pending issues of the GPA."

With the success of the inclusive government on the economic front, the sources said Zanu-PF was afraid of a backlash from the electorate in the constituencies where by-elections are due while the MDC-T was not certain if its popularity has grown in the so-called Zanu PF strongholds.

The sources said the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC was against the holding of the by-elections and preferred an extension of the inclusive government to five years, as it feared losing the only remaining seven parliamentary seats under its control.

However, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, Gorden Moyo, said it was not the intention of the inclusive government to extend the moratorium on elections and said everything was moving towards the holding of the by-elections.

"There are no intentions to amend the GPA as we are implementing it as it is. We do not believe that the by-elections will be violent and we are putting in guarantees to ensure that any electoral competition will be fair," Moyo said.

He, however, said he did not know if the three principals had discussed the possible extension of the one-year agreement.

Zanu PF chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa said the extension of the one-year moratorium depended on the three political parties.

"The political parties can extend the moratorium depending on what they agree on but I do not know whether the principals have initiated discussions on that matter, so far I am not aware of any listing of that matter," Chinamasa said.

There are close to 15 by-elections due in the senate and the House of Assembly but President Mugabe has yet not called for the holding of by-elections.

Several MDC-T members have pending cases in the courts and if they are all prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to more than six months imprisonment, the number of by-lections due could rise to more than 30 throughout the country.

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