Zimbabwe: Polls - Parties Ready for 'Worst Case Scenario'

ZIMBABWE'S political battlegrounds are likely to remain the same in 2013 despite significant demographic changes in the country as announced in the preliminary census results released by Zimstat in December.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) deputy chairperson Joyce Kazembe announced that there would be no delimitation exercise ahead of elections expected this year despite a 1,1% increase in the population figures released by Zimstat.

"There is no delimitation this time around," said Kazembe. "The 210 constituencies will remain like what they are now. Even in wards, we will use what is there now."

It marks the first time since Independence that Zimbabwe has failed to undertake a delimitation exercise, especially with new population figures available.

The decision to skip delimitation smacks of political compromise and expediency among the political elite. Zanu PF has been calling for elections since the conception of the coalition government in 2009.

This is despite outstanding reforms that include a new constitution, Public Order and Security Act amendments, security sector and media reforms as well as liberalisation of the broadcasting sector.

MDC-T Harare spokesperson and Justice deputy minister Obert Gutu last week said his party was readying itself for the worst case scenario of participating in elections without full reforms.

"It's apparent that the fascist faction in Zanu PF is determined to completely collapse the process," said Gutu. "I don't want to sound like the devil's advocate but I sincerely urge all democrats to start preparing for the worst case scenario where the make-or-break elections in 2013 might be held under the Lancaster House constitution," Gutu wrote on his Facebook profile.

MDC-T policy adviser Eddie Cross shared the same sentiments, in an opinion piece published online saying since Zanu PF has taken a position on elections, the MDC-T too has to take one.

"It seems to me that they have heard the beaters start their slow drive towards their position and are now determined to go for a confrontation with the MDC," Cross wrote. "On our part, we have also decided to go for it and have agreed to go for a referendum in March and the election in June."

According to Zimstat chairman Douglas Hoto, the country's population as at 18 August 2012 was 12 973 808, up from the last recorded figure of 11,6 million in the 2002 census. The preliminary results show that there are about 6 738 877 females and 6 234 931 males in Zimbabwe.

The decision to skip the delimitation exercise, Zec said, is due to the government's precarious financial position.

Zec says the decision to omit the delimitation exercise would reduce the state's poll budget from an estimated US$220 million to US$192 million. The country changed from 120 constituencies to 210 in the 2008 harmonised elections. Each constituency had an average population of 46 000 voters.

The massive increase in the number of constituencies meant the average voter population per constituency was reduced to between 23 000 and 26 000. In the past, constituency boundaries have always shifted depending on the demographics immediately before an election.

Zimstat's figures show that the northern half of Zimbabwe has more people compared to the southern half.

Population distribution on a province by province basis shows Harare as the most populous with 2 098 199 people, representing 16% of the total population. Manicaland has 1 755 000 (14%), Midlands 1 622 476 (13%), Masvingo 1 486 604 (11%), Mashonaland West 1 449 938 (11%), Mashonaland Central 1 139 940 (9%), Matabeleland North 743 871 (6%), Bulawayo 655 675 (5%) and Matabeleland South 685 046 (5%).

Bulawayo is the only province to record a decrease in population with a negative growth of -0,3%.

The political scene is now set for elections and the gladiators are staring into each other's eyes, with reforms taking a back seat.

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