Political risks to watch in Zimbabwe
HARARE – Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe wants to hold elections in March but is facing opposition from his coalition partners pressing for more political reforms to avoid a repeat of the 2008 poll violence.
Even if Mugabe and his rivals manage to finally agree this month on a new national constitution, required before the polls, the government might still fail to compile a new voters register by March, or find money for the elections.
Mugabe and his ZANU-PF have already gone to court to delay or halt parliamentary by-elections, saying his cash-strapped government cannot afford them and that the country is going to hold a general election in six months’ time anyway.
Under the terms of a power-sharing deal that Mugabe signed with rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), new elections must be held after the adoption of a new constitution, electoral and media reforms.
FIGHT OVER CONSTITUTION
The row over a new constitution drafted by an inter-party parliamentary committee will go to a larger national conference expected before the end of October.
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF is trying to overhaul some provisions limiting presidential powers while strengthening those of parliament. The MDC accuses ZANU-PF of retaining power over the last 12 years through vote rigging and political violence.
The final charter is likely to be a compromise, since neither party commands the two-thirds parliamentary majority needed to pass the new supreme law.
What to watch:
– Compromises by Mugabe and Tsvangirai to break the impasse on the constitution and when the draft will be put to a national referendum.
Tsvangirai is complaining his MDC supporters are being targeted by ZANU-PF militants and said he might quit the unity government if the violence continues towards general elections.
Political analysts say Tsvangirai is unlikely to leave the coalition, but is strategically raising the violence issue to force Mugabe to allow in more international observers before the next poll.
What to watch:
– Whether co-ordinated, widespread political violence rises across the southern African state, and how the Southern African Development Community (SADC) reacts.
Mugabe, 88, in power since the country’s independence from Britain in 1980, says he wants to contest another election and refuses to designate a preferred successor.
ZANU-PF officials, many of whom now consider Mugabe a liability, fear the party could implode if he dies in office without settling the succession issue.
What to watch:
– If Mugabe will clip the wings of potential successors in an attempt to keep his grip on power.
PRESSURE ON BANKS
The central bank has increased minimum capital requirements for banks to up to $100 million, a move that could hold back a Mugabe drive to force foreign banks to sell majority shares to locals while forcing small, locally owned banks to merge.
Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has given foreign banks up to a year to sell their shares to Zimbabweans. The central bank also gave banks until the end of Sept. 30 to submit plans on how they intend to meet the new capital thresholds. Reuters