/ 23 December 2010

Zimbabwe pressed on vote reforms

Zimbabwe Pressed On Vote Reforms

Zimbabwe’s future depends on credible elections and President Robert Mugabe’s government must make major reforms to allow for a fair vote, major Western nations said on Wednesday.

“The coming months will determine Zimbabwe’s prospects for the years to come,” the group, known as the Friends of Zimbabwe, said in a statement that praised the African country for progress since its unity government was formed last year.

“However, serious concerns remain relating to the protection of fundamental rights, the rule of law, governance and respect for agreements.”

Mugabe (86) is pushing for a general election to be held by mid-2011. Analysts say his ruling Zanu-PF party may be betting on victory due to infighting in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is struggling to hold on to gains made in Zanu-PF rural strongholds in 2008.

Critics say Mugabe, in power for three decades, is stalling on the critical media, electoral and security reforms needed for a free and fair vote.

‘Zimbabweans should not face violence and intimidation’
The Friends of Zimbabwe, which include the United States, Zimbabwe’s former colonial ruler Britain and a host of other Western countries, said it was urging Zimbabwe’s neighbours, particularly South Africa, to work with Harare to promote conditions for credible, legitimate and peaceful elections.

“Zimbabweans should not face violence and intimidation to cast their votes,” the group said, echoing accusations of widespread intimidation and irregularities in previous elections.

The group commended Zimbabwe’s unity government, which has brought Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai into an uneasy partnership, for achieving “significant gains in macroeconomic stabilisation” after a 40% contraction in the economy from 2000 to 2008 attributed to mismanagement under Mugabe.

“The increasing state revenue and strengthening of the public finance system provide an opportunity to improve living conditions of ordinary Zimbabweans,” the group said, although it hinted that opaque policies covering Zimbabwe’s mineral and natural resources were still a problem.

“It is critical in this regard that the development of natural resources is pursued in a transparent manner that empowers and benefits the people.”

The group, which includes most major Western aid donors, said it expected to spend more than $500-million on various aid projects in Zimbabwe in 2011. — Reuters