After being ordered by the constitutional court to announce an election date no later than the end of July, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has settled on the last day of July. According to media reports on Thursday, Mugabe has decided that Zimbabweans will hit the polls on 31 July.
Despite this date being in compliance with the court ruling, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is not satisfied. He said that the president is acting in a manner that is unlawful and unconstitutional. Tsvangirai was adamant: “As prime minister I cannot and will not accept this.”
Tsvangirai’s objection to this date is based on the fact that the Movement for Democratic Change wants more democratic reforms to be applied before the nation can vote. The MDC is certain that until this is done, Zimbabwe will not be in a position to hold free and fair elections.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai agreed to a unity government in order to eradicate the spate of violent attacks that prevailed in previous Zimbabwean elections. Since then, the country has made considerable progress in voting for a new constitution. The MDC wants more reforms pertaining specifically to electoral law and security services.
The unity government arrangement requires the president to consult the prime minister on issues of national importance including the date of the elections. Mugabe failed to consult Tsvangirai before settling on the election date.
Spokesperson for the International Crisis Group, Trevor Maisiri, said that the challenge in this Zimbabwean situation lies in the interpretation of the word ‘consultation’. He explained: “If you speak to Zanu-PF, they’ll say consultation means the president can ask the principals what they think. With their suggestions, he can make a decision.” On the other hand, the MDC is certain that consultation means ‘we’ll make the decision together’.