HARARE – The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) led by former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai has abandoned its “no reforms no elections agenda”, declaring on Tuesday it would form a coalition with like minded parties and contest the 2018 elections.
Until now, the MDC-T had insisted it would not participate in any elections until the electoral playing field was made even. The largest opposition party has boycotted a number of by-elections – a move that saw President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF regain a number of urban seats.
Electoral reforms expected to be implemented by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) together with the government have been moving at snail pace.
This has raised doubts that the electoral playing field would be level by the time of the elections, which are due in the first quarter of 2018.
The MDC-T revealed on Tuesday that it was already preparing for these elections, but it would continue to work with the National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) to push for electoral reforms.
“On elections, the party has taken a decision to prioritise election preparedness in the year 2017. All our structures across the country, across the villages and towns will collapse into a grand election machinery,” MDC T President Morgan Tsvangirai told a press conference after a meeting of the party’s national council in Harare.
Tsvangirai said the MDC-T would get into electoral alliance with political parties who share their vision and mission anchored on creating and nurturing a democratic space.
The former prime minister also gave a number of principles which he said any party willing to enter into a coalition should share. They included a common transformation agenda and respect for human rights.
“The party, however, has today set and defined its principles for engagement with other parties in the coalition,” said Tsvangirai.
“In this regard, we will engage with and seek to enter into an electoral alliance with political parties who share or subscribe to our vision of a society that prides itself for not leaving anyone behind in their pursuit of freedom, prosperity and happiness.”
Tsvangirai emphasised that they would only coalesce with tried and tested political parties and leaders who have a track record in elections in the country.
The stance could be seen as a snub of Zimbabwe’s smaller political parties that formed a coalition in neighbouring South Africa last month under the banner of the Coalition of Democrats (CODE).
“We are a people based party with an electoral history and subscribe to the democratic principle that the authority to govern is derived from the people,” said Tsvangirai.
“The current challenges in Zimbabwe can best be tackled by a people based pre-election pact in that it minimises the unknowns by providing an equitable and scientific and objective basis for approaching the election based on known strengths of political leaders and parties nationally and in given electoral districts.”
He said the proposed coalition would field a single presidential candidate and one parliamentary candidate as well as one local government for each contested seat.
“The party which, based on past performance and other factors, is the strongest electorally in a given constituency must field the candidate for the coalition,” he said.
Tsvangirai said the presidential candidate would choose the national state executive and should consider that the cabinet should be lean, competent, regionally balanced and include all alliance partners among others.
The opposition leader said he was aware of plans by Zanu PF to rig the 2018 elections.
“There are already plans to rig the elections and we know the extent of the rigging. It is not an event and we know they anticipated that without rigging they cannot get a full mandate. We are very conscious of their plans,” he said.
– Africa News Agency