Mounting friction between Mugabe, Tsvangirai threaten Zimbabwe's government
Prime Minister Tsvangirai could pull out, leading to early elections that would favor President Mugabe, whose far-reaching powers haven't yet been curbed by promised constitutional reform.
With friction between Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his chief rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, mounting this week, the country's always shaky coalition government appears to be edging towards collapse.Skip to next paragraph
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Zimbabwe’s coalition was formed nine months after deeply flawed elections in March 2008 and has spent much of the past two years bickering over government appointments and the collapsed economy. It has also failed to write a new constitution, one of the coalition’s main tasks.
Now it looks as if Prime Minister Tsvangirai could pull out of the coalition, which would probably lead Zimbabwe to early elections. Speaking to party supporters at a rally in Bulawayo this week, Tsvangirai said he could no longer see eye-to-eye with Mugabe, whom he described as a “crook” for failing to honor his promises under the terms of the coalition agreement.
If the coalition does collapse, analysts say that would suit Mr. Mugabe perfectly, and some say he's trying to goad Tsvangirai into that deciscion. Why? Because the vote will come before the constitutional reform that was promised when the current government was formed, leaving Tsvangirai and his allies at a severe disadvantage to Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe with an increasingly tight grip since 1980.
The current constitution gives the president far-reaching powers to appoint judges, arrest opposition members, and order mass crackdowns by Zimbabwe’s many security agencies. Mugabe has already declared that elections will be held next year with or without a new constitution.
“The political climate is not conducive at all” for free and fair elections, says Judy Smith-Hohn, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa. “Draconian laws such as AIPPA and POSA still exist, and the election will be definitely flawed,” she adds, referring to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and Public Order and Security Act (POSA), which deny members of the public to gather for rallies without police clearance.
Tsvangirai joined Mugabe’s government in January 2009 in the hopes of ending 1 million percent inflation rates and the collapse of Zimbabwe's commercial farming industry.
If Tsvangirai pulls out, new elections would be held immediately
Supporters of Tsvangirai’s opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, say that Mugabe has stoked the fires between coalition partners by unilaterally appointing provincial governors, judges, ambassadors, and other senior public officers without consulting either Tsvangirai or his deputy Arthur Mutambara, who leads a breakaway faction of the MDC.