3rd election foreseen for Mugabe’s party

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa | The Zimbabwean government of President Robert Mugabe is considering a third election before the end of the year to ensure that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) loses its current majority in Parliament.

This was told to The Washington Times by a senior member of Mr. Mugabe’s secret police, the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), who produced a document he said had been discussed in the ruling party’s highest decision-making body, the Soviet-styled Politburo.

The officer, who was on a visit to Cape Town in South Africa, said he would “disappear” if it was known that he had leaked the information, and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Talks between Mr. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the MDC are set to resume Wednesday, part of a South African-brokered effort to achieve a deal between the two parties.

Mr. Mugabe has declared his commitment to the negotiation process but is demanding that he lead the government. He has not spoken about any plans for another election this year. Repeated efforts to reach Mr. Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba, by telephone for this article were not successful.

Human rights groups say that 114 people - most of them MDC officials - have been killed in the past four months, while thousands have been tortured and an estimated 200,000 displaced or rendered homeless.

“The violence you see on the ground, burning people’s homes, killing MDC [supporters], torturing people, all this will continue, so that Mugabe can call another election and make sure the wins,” the intelligence officer said. “When that is done, he will set up a government of national unity with the MDC as junior partner.”

In a March 29 general election, Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF lost its majority in Parliament for the first time since rising to power in 1980.

A presidential election on the same day gave MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai 47.9 percent of the vote against 43.2 for Mr. Mugabe. Under the constitution, a winning candidate must secure 50 percent plus one vote in order to avoid a runoff.

The runoff election, which by law should have been held within 21 days of the first vote, took place on June 27, nearly three months later.

Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew five days before the ballot, accusing the government of killing his election monitors and making it impossible for him to campaign. Mr Tsvangirai had been detained by police eight times in the previous week.

Mr. Mugabe proceeded with the election with himself as the sole candidate. The ballot was marked by a low turnout, a high incidence of spoiled ballots and allegations by observers that, in rural areas, people had been forced to polling stations by armed militia. Mr. Mugabe was sworn in as president on June 29.

In London, Zimbabwean lawyer Gugulethu Moyo, who works with the International Bar Association, said that Mr. Mugabe has the power to order a new election.

“The constitution gives the president power to call a general election any time he likes. He doesn’t have to confer with anyone, and although by law the longest a government can stay in office is five years, there is no minimum term. He could do it tomorrow,” she said.

The CIO officer said a second option under discussion was to jail or kill enough MDC lawmakers to reduce the party’s lead in the House, but this was considered unworkable because it could take too long and would not provide a sufficient margin for Mr. Mugabe’s party.

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