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Zimbabwe Parliament Puts Off Constitutional Vote until Next Week


Zimbabwe has postponed today's parliament vote on a unification government constitutional amendment until next week in order to give ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) more time to iron out their differences. After more than four months of stalled negotiations, agreement was reached last week to form a unity government headed by Robert Mugabe as president and MDC opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister. Chris Hennemeyer is vice president for communications of IFES, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, a democracy development consulting organization. He says that many observers remain skeptical that Mugabe and Tsvangirai will be able to coexist.

"Most of the issues that prevented the cohabitation from going forward late last year are still in place. That is, Tsvangirai still doesn't have the Home Affairs ministry under his wing and there's still a lack of clarity on what a new constitution might say how governorships are dealt with and how major decisions will be made," he pointed out.

In order to resolve Zimbabwe's ten-month government impasse after ZANU-PF lost a controversial runoff to the MDC, several options were available. Short of sharing power between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, Tsvangirai might have declined to participate in a unity government, or an entirely new election could have been called. Hennemeyer says that pressed by the United States, Britain, and the African Union (AU), Mugabe and the prime minister-designate chose the power-sharing arrangement. He says that implementation of the committees and institutions being set up to carry out the plan mainly depends on opposition leader Tsvangirai's ability to convince the factions of his independent-minded party to accept the benefits of the arrangement.

"Obviously, parliament is controlled by both factions of the MDC, so ZANU-PF, I think, will go ahead with it and Tsvangirai has some serious hand-shaking and arm-twisting to do to make sure that his people are fully on board," he said.

As for its chances of surviving, let alone tackling Zimbabwe's monumental economic collapse and a runaway cholera epidemic, Hennemeyer notes that the partnership can only succeed with active support from foreign donors and powerbrokers from the international community.

"From what we can tell from the various leaks, it was a long and painful process getting people to buy in. I think what's going to help determine whether this was a wise decision or not is whether with MDC's presence in the highest levels of government, donors and banks and so-on will start letting money flow to Zimbabwe. And if we see an improvement in Zimbabwe's economic situation, I think the naysayers will be proven wrong," he said.

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