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Mugabe calls elections for March 29

By Lebo Nkatazo

ZIMBABWE’S President Robert Mugabe will likely be forced into a second round of voting after the country’s presidential elections on March 29 because of Simba Makoni’s decision to join the race, a leading political scientist said this week.

Professor Jonathan Moyo believes Mugabe will face a run off -- the result of a 2002 amendment to the country’s Electoral Act which requires that the winner of the presidential election must receive a clear majority – or 51 percent.

The Electoral Act (Chapter 2;13) Section 110(3) states: “Where two or more candidates for president are nominated, and after a poll taken in terms of subsection (2), no candidate receives a majority of the total number of valid votes cast, a second election shall be held within twenty one days after the previous election in accordance with this Act.”

If the final two candidates are split evenly, parliament sitting as an electoral college, will vote to break the deadlock.

Previously, the law allowed a candidate with more votes to be declared president. In neighbouring Zambia, President Levy Mwanawasa got into office after winning 27 percent of the vote, with the larger percentage shared fractionally between various other candidates.

Mugabe is seeking a sixth term and was widely tipped to be coasting for victory until Makoni, a former finance minister and member of the Zanu PF politburo, entered the ring as an independent on February 5. Movement for Democratic Chang (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai and relatively unknown independent Langton Towungana are the other candidates.

Moyo said: “Given what the law provides, the likelihood of any of the candidates getting 51 percent is between slim and none because for the first time we have three candidates who are likely to draw solid support from their strongholds, and their respective strongholds are different.

“There is quite a sizeable chance of disgruntled registered voters from both Zanu PF and MDC who out of desperation believe Makoni is a solution -- even though he says he is working alone -- actually voting for him..

“When you have three strong candidates in an environment of desperation, it is very unlikely anyone of those will command a total majority of votes cast. One may get more votes than the other two, but not enough to get 51 percent as required by law.

“What makes this election quite intriguing is that whereas Mugabe called for harmonised elections in order to avoid a situation where he comes head on with one candidate -- he did not want to run against the MDC candidate alone, he wanted to be assisted by his council candidates at ward level, house of assembly and senatorial candidates at constituency level -- the stark reality he now faces is that he will most likely, if not certain, run alone.

“The looming possibility of a run-off renders meaningless Mugabe’s attempt to harmonise elections in the hope of riding on its cocktail. While he thought he was clever or even wise by doing this -- he says people like me are clever but not wise -- his Amendment 18 which harmonised elections might turn out to be the greatest boomerang.

“He must now hope that he will be part of that run-off, but if he becomes part of that run off, he will be alone. And people will now say simkhuthe ngaphi (where did we miss him)? If there is quite a wave, a huge anti-Mugabe wave, that would be the end of him.

“The mathematics of it if you look around where Tsvangirai is popular and likely to get support, where Makoni is popular and likely to get support, where Mugabe is popular and likely to pick more votes, none of them is guaranteed 51 percent, and that’s what will cause a run-off.

“In the past all you needed was a simple majority, the same situation you had with Kenya under Daniel Arap Moi where he used to defeat the fragmented opposition by getting more than them individually, and not more than them put together.”

Patrick Chinamasa, Zimbabwe's Justice Minister, says a second round in the presidential poll would not be necessary as president Mugabe will win "resoundingly."

He described the opposition as "make shift" and he said Mugabe's opponents do not have a "platform or any cohesion."

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