168993_Zimbabwe 110427 v2
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[4 LINKS] Teaser An early presidential election in Zimbabwe is likely, but if it happens, it will be a controversial affair. Zimbabwe's Presidential Election Controversy Editor's Note: This is part one of a series on Zimbabwe's possible early presidential election. It will provide a background on the elections, which are apt to be marred by controversy. Part two will compare and contrast the situation in Zimbabwe with recent developments in Ivory Coast, where a contested presidential election recently led to the downfall of former President Laurent Gbagbo. Part three will explore the role in Zimbabwe of South Africa, which will be the key player in shaping any postMugabe government. Zimbabwe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) is pushing for an early presidential election, possibly as early as the coming months, though no date has been set. ZANU-PF has experienced resistance, however, from the opposition MDC, which would like to avoid new elections until at least 2012. The government of President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe with his ZANUPF since independence from the United Kingdom in 1980, is not constitutionally required to hold a presidential election until 2013. Determining whether Zimbabwe will hold a presidential election early is currently the subject of an intense political struggle. As holding a new presidential election sooner rather than later benefits the ZANUPF, early elections can be expected. The elections will be marred by controversy, however, and this time around, are likely to draw intense African -- in addition to the predictable international -- scrutiny. Mugabe and the Advantage of Incumbency Mugabe is 87 years old, and increasingly has made trips abroad, notably to Singapore, for medical evaluations. Uncertainties regarding Mugabe's longevity are not lost on his supporters when calculating how best to maintain their hold on power. According to the Zimbabwean Constitution, should the president die or resign, the incumbent party names his successor, who will finish out the remainder of the existing term. Were early elections not held and Mugabe died or otherwise left office before 2013, ZANU-PF thus would name the person who would finish out his term. Holding the presidential election early would re-set the five year timetable. Thus, if Zimbabwe held a presidential election in 2011 and Mugabe were re-elected for what would be his a seventh term, the party would rule the presidency until 2016 regardless of when Mugabe actually left office. This suggests the ZANU-PF would call
elections sooner rather than later if it had serious concerns regarding Mugabe's health. He is the party's undisputed champion with universal recognition, something his rivals within his party do not possess, and hence represents its best shot at holding on to the presidency. ZANU-PF calculations also will be influenced by the current weakness of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The MDC is still split into two factions, one led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the other led by Welshman Ncube. The splits have prevented the opposition from taking advantage of ZANU-PF's failure to comply with the terms of a coalition government agreement reached in 2009. Election Controversy and the Outside Response If Zimbabwe's last national elections are any guide, the current elections are likely to be controversial. ZANU-PF initially relaxed during the 2008 parliamentary and presidential election campaigns only to