President Emmerson Mnangagwa has revealed that the highly anticipated 2018 harmonized elections will be held before the July mark, a move that is likely to catch opposition parties flatfooted.
In an interview with BBC’s Zaineb Badawi, at the World Economic Forum currently underway at Davos, Switzerland, Mnangagwa said invited the European Union to observe the elections which he promised to be free and fair.
“In my own view, we want to abide by the idea of constitutionalism and in terms of our constitution, every five years we are required to seek a new mandate.
“So the five year term ends in July. The constitution allows us to even hold elections even six months before the expiry date, which is July,” he said.
Mnangagwa’s assurance at an international platform will likely throw the country into confusion with the opposition parties pushing for electoral reforms.
The main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change has been rocked by internal divisions due to Morgan Tsvangirai’s health condition with senior party as officials scrambling to position themselves for potential takeover of leadership.
Mnangagwa said international observers, a shift from the hard-line stance of his predecessor President Robert Mugabe who only allowed what he termed friendly countries including SADC and African Union.
“From what I understand, we are going to have transparent elections, that is free, fair elections and credible, which will be free of violence.
“So if you have such an environment, why would we not want international observers to come and monitor our elections.
“Like in the past, SADC and AU countries will have be free to come as per our agreement but this time i have gone further and said the EU are welcome to observe our election, however the rest will have to apply,” said Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa said after the completion of the Bio-metric Voter Registration (BVR), which will end in February, he will roll out an election road-map which, among other things, will reveal the exact dates of the election.
Asked on whether there wont be intimidation of opposition party members, Mnangagwa said his Zanu PF party has agreed that no leader will engage in violent conduct ahead of the elections.
He said it upon all political leaders, both from the opposition and ruling to preach against violence and encourage all supporters to preach about peace and unity as the country braces for the watershed elections.
However, the president dismissed the idea of coming up with a new and independent electoral commission.
“We already have the ZEC which is one of the five independent commissions. We came up with that commission after we have had the government run elections, which is against international standards,” Mnangagwa noted.
The election, a litmus test of Mnangagwa’s democratic credentials, will be crucial to unlocking badly needed financial assistance and repairing relations with Western powers and international financial institutions.
Mnangagwa, a protege of Robert Mugabe, came to power in November after a de-facto military coup when the 93-year-old was forced to resign after the military intervened , ending the former president’s 37 year rule.
It was the culmination of a power struggle between Mnangagwa and former first lady ,Grace Mugabe, who was being groomed by her husband as his potential successor.