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ZESN supports elections in 2008
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
January 18, 2007

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network has added its voice to the controversial debate on the harmonisation of elections in Zimbabwe. The electoral body said the constitutional mandate should be respected and presidential elections should be held next year as scheduled. Last month the ruling ZANU PF party announced plans to move presidential elections from 2008 to 2010, so they can be held simultaneously with parliamentary elections.

There was an outcry from opposition and civic groups who see this as a ploy to extend Robert Mugabe’s term in office.

ZESN chairperson Dr Reginald Matchaba Hove told SW Radio Africa that in principle there is nothing wrong with harmonisation, but his organisation is opposed to any ‘harmonisation’ that would see the delaying of presidential elections. He said: "Our view was that there should be harmonisation that should be done in 2008. Extending the presidential term without going through an electoral process, deprives the people of Zimbabwe from giving their leaders a fresh mandate."

It appears there is general consensus that elections should be held at the same time but there are major differences on when they should be held. Some analysts agree that the polls should be combined but say they should be extended from 2008 to 2010, not only to give people time to prepare but that the harmonisation process needs to be accompanied by serious reforms.

The flawed electoral process has been a major complaint for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, since the parliamentary election in 2000 and subsequent elections thereafter. Experts have in the past called for fundamental changes to the electoral system to bring about a more equitable and level playing field. But they say this is being hampered by a clear lack of political will from the Mugabe regime.

When asked if there is enough time to hold the elections next year Dr Matchaba Hobe responded by saying this is something that all stakeholders should be agitating for. He said: "It is important that pressure be brought to bear on all forces, that the people of Zimbabwe would want to see a new constitution and a level playing field that would allow for competition that is free and fair in 2008."

ZESN says it will be holding a series of public awareness meetings so that people are aware of what is at stake.

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