“These elections are nearer than what you expect”: President Mnangagwa

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Addressing the ruling Zanu-PF’s Central Committee meeting on Thursday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa made a cryptic announcement in which he said that the 2018 elections will be held “sooner than you think.”  The president went on to say that his government will ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible.  He also said that Zanu-PF was going to come up with concrete plans for its campaign.

Mnangagwa said this at the Zanu-PF Headquarters in Harare where the Central Committee was meeting, a day before the Zanu-PF Extra-Ordinary Congress which is scheduled for Friday. The Central Committee is Zanu-PF’s highest decision-making body outside of Congress.

Said Mnangagwa:

These elections are nearer than what you expect.

As for the 2018 elections government will make sure that they are free, fair and credible

The president’s announcement is likely to be met with trepidation by the opposition who have been calling for electoral reforms. MDC Alliance member and former Finance Minister Tendai Biti testified before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Tuesday. Biti together with Human Rights Watch director for Southern Africa, Dewa Mavhinga and writer Peter Godwin urged the United States government to push President Mnangagwa’s government for reforms.

An early election is likely to favour President Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF as the party has massive goodwill following the ouster of former president Robert Mugabe. Mnangagwa came to power in November after the Zimbabwe Defence Forces launched a military intervention codenamed Operation Restore Legacy which ultimately resulted in Mugabe stepping down after 37 years as Head of State. Zimbabweans from all walks of life and from different political parties were united in calling for Mugabe to step down. This resulted in Mnangagwa and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces getting goodwill and acclaim from urbanites, who are traditionally supporters of the opposition.

Pro-democracy activist Patson Dzamara said that if elections were to be held today, Zanu-PF would win without rigging:

Said Dzamara:

Here is the bottom line though. If elections are held today (in a free and fair manner), considering the recent developments and the current dynamics, ZANU-PF will win. The opposition has an uphill task ahead of it. ZANU-PF is stronger & more proactive. It’s not business as usual.

Exploring the possibility of an early election back in August, legal experts, Veritas said:

A Possible Timetable for a 3rd March Election

If the rationale for an early election is for an already prepared ZANU-PF to make things as difficult as possible for all other parties and/or coalitions, a fast-as-possible election programme would make sense [i.e. with as few delays as feasible between proclamation and polling].  Hence the suggestions of an early March election.

The earliest day in March 2018 for elections would be Saturday 3rd March[elections are normally held on a Saturday.]  This would mean that the dissolution vote in Parliament would have to be no earlier than 4th December 2017 [because, as already noted, there must not be more than 90 days between the vote and the election].  And the election proclamation following the vote could not be later than 18th January 2018 [because under section 157(3) of the Constitution there must not be less than 44 days between the proclamation of an election and polling day].

On this basis a fast timetable for polling on Saturday 3rd March 2018would be:-

  • The vote for dissolution: Between 4th December 2017 and 16th January 2018[the day before the latest possible date for the election proclamation].

  • The Presidential Proclamation of the Dissolution of Parliament: any time after the vote for dissolution and before or on same day as Proclamation of Elections

  • Presidential Proclamation of Elections: Thursday 18th January 2018 [Section 157(3) of the Constitution stipulates at least 44 days from proclamation date to polling date.]

  • Nomination date: Thursday 1st February 2018 [must be at least 14 days after the Proclamation:  section 157(3) of the Constitution]

  • Polling date: Saturday 3rd March 2018