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Zimbabwe News: Mugabe's plans for early elections meet obstacles

Analysis: South Africa and other neighboring countries could press Mugabe to make reforms.

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Zimbabwe's President and leader of ZANU-PF Robert Mugabe calls for elections in 2012 at the party's annual conference in Bulawayo, on December 10, 2011. Mugabe said he has no intention of retiring, saying doing so would be an act of 'cowardice.' (Jekesai Njikizana /AFP/Getty Images)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s main political parties, Zanu-PF and the MDC, are set to renegotiate the so-called Global Political Agreement, analysts disclosed last week. This is a major setback for President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe has decreed that there will be elections this year, which many saw as a bold move to push the MDC out of government.

The 87-year-old ruler is planning to outmaneuver his MDC partners while he is still able.

“The time has come now for us to prepare for elections next year,” Mugabe told his Zanu-PF party last month.

He repeated the mantra that he was the victim of a forced coalition with the MDC. 

“There are those among us who lost the elections completely,” he said in reference to the MDC. “They were rejected by the people. We asked parliament to regard them as if they won. Now we have them in government.”

Mugabe is supported in his plans to hold elections by the army, police and intelligence service.

Mugabe's government has already begun a crackdown on the media and has deployed military and party militia across the country to intimidate rural and urban voters.

Yet Mugabe has encountered some stumbling blocks. He has been told by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that it has insufficient resources to hold elections.

More from GlobalPost: Mugabe regime cracks down on press 

He has also been told by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma — who is heading a regional initiative to prevent electoral violence of the sort witnessed in 2008 — that fundamental reforms must be implemented before elections. These changes include opening up the media and curtailing human rights abuses.

Mugabe repeatedly claims he was deprived of victory in the 2008 poll by foreign forces, most notably American NGOs headed by the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. But in fact he lost both the parliamentary and presidential polls to Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) according to official results. But Mugabe insisted there had to be a runoff election, because he said that Tsvangirai did not win the required 51 percent. Mugabe won the runoff elections by unleashing widespread violence in which hundreds of Tsvangirai's supporters were killed, according to international observers. Tsvangirai boycotted the second round so Mugabe won. But South Africa and the neighboring states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) pressured Mugabe and Tsvangirai to form a power-sharing government.

Mugabe’s repeated denunciation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC has led to a dysfunctional government.

Mugabe’s coterie, and in particular the armed forces, refuse to recognize the prime minister’s authority. This has in turn damaged investment prospects.

But Mugabe’s followers who have been vitriolic in demanding early elections are in for a shock. Evidence is mounting that as a result of Mugabe’s refusal to meet the terms of the pact that binds him to the MDC in the coalition government, the so-called Global Agreement will have to be renegotiated.

Analysts are already talking of a GPA 2.

Elections, as Mugabe wishes, under existing conditions could reverse everything that has been achieved by the coalition so far, warned political analyst Ibbo Mandaza. Although the joint government has been unwieldy and often dysfunctional, it has succeeded in taming Zimbabwe's billion percent inflation and in reopening the country's schools. Therefore there will be a push for the revision of the GPA.

Other analysts point out that regional body SADC cannot do any more than it has already done in knocking heads together.

Related: Zimbabwe MP freed after being charged with calling Mugabe gay

“There has to be political will among the political parties,” said university lecturer Lawson Hikwa in a newspaper interview. “There has to be political will among the parties to move forward and implement the outstanding GPA reforms like the constitutional review and various legislative amendments for the holding of free and fair elections.”

Other legislation that needs root-and-branch reform is the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which contains clauses from the colonial era designed to suppress nationalist voices. Mugabe is still using the powers. Editors and politicians have been arrested under this act.

If South Africa insists that Mugabe stick to the terms of the agreement, then it must be renegotiated before Mugabe can hold elections. This may well deprive Mugabe of the head start he needs to place the MDC on its back foot.

After over two years of horse trading, the parties are in reality no further forward than they were in 2009.

But one thing has changed. Mugabe’s intention to press ahead without consulting his government partners and in the absence of essential reforms such as repealing the sinister Public Order and Security Act, which outlaws public demonstrations, will oblige South Africa and other neighbors in SADC to draw a line in the sand and demand that Mugabe make the fundamental changes that Zimbabwe needs to return to democracy.

More from GlobalPost: Will Robert Mugabe exit like Gaddafi?

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/zimbabwe/120104/zimbabwe-news-mugabes-plans-early-elections-meet-obstac