Mugabe to urge early elections at party conference

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe will use his party`s annual conference on Friday to demand new elections.

Updated: Dec 15, 2010, 12:02 PM IST

Harare: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe
will use his party`s annual conference on Friday to demand new elections, despite warnings from diplomats that it could return the country to bloodshed and chaos.

Mugabe will urge members of ZANU-PF gathering in the
eastern city of Mutare to support his bid for fresh polls,
probably for summer next year and to seek their nomination for
a new term, a party spokesman told AFP.

Already Africa`s oldest leader at 86, Mugabe could stay
in power until well into his 90s if he persuades enough of the
3,000 or so delegates expected to attend the conference.

Zimbabwe is in the throes of a vicious battle between
Mugabe and his arch-foe and power-sharing Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai. Tsvangirai`s Movement For Democratic Change
(MDC) has said credible polls are not possible before 2012.

The uneasy coalition formed between the two men six
months after the 2008 ballot is on the brink of collapse, with
Mugabe pushing for new polls despite the need for a referendum
on a new constitution first.

"There will be elections," ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo
told AFP, confirming recent comments by Mugabe that they were
needed to end the current political stalemate.

"Even if the MDC refuse to participate in the referendum,
we will just go ahead with elections. As far as we are
concerned our candidate (Mugabe) is there unless he declines."

The MDC, meanwhile, has said its activists are being
targeted and forced to hand in their membership cards, undermining the chance of a fair vote.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told AFP that a fair ballot
was not possible before 2012, and maybe as late as 2013,
precisely because of the intimidation of activists.

"It`s one party trying to bulldoze its way through. We
need reforms around the supervision of elections and to put a
full stop to the violence, which continues to contaminate the
electoral process," he said.
Zimbabwe`s last elections were dogged by violence which
forced Tsvangirai to withdraw from a presidential run-off
ballot, citing the killing of more than 300 of his supporters,
with thousands more forced to flee the violence.

Britain`s ambassador to Zimbabwe had warned on November
23 that an early election risked the repeat of the bloodshed.

Bureau Report