DOUBTS linger over whether elections will indeed be held this year as insisted on by President Robert Mugabe owing to formidable hurdles along the road to polls, but the general consensus is elections are this year.
Political parties are shifting up the gears in readiness for primaries to determine candidates to represent them, with prospective MPs already wooing the electorate through a variety of strategies including brazen vote-buying.
The stalled constitution-making exercise and outstanding Global Political Agreement issues aside, there is a profound sense of déjà vu as the election mode -- which Zanu PF, or rather Mugabe, has been stuck in since the formation of the unity government -- takes firm grip.
Already there are the tell-tale signs of fly-by-night politicians and their parties taking full advantage of Zimbabwe's simple age and citizenship requirements for presidential aspirants to peddle obscure if not sponsored agendas.
This lends credibility to long-held suspicions they are fronts for former ruling party Zanu PF to split the opposition vote, while giving the impression multi-party democracy is thriving in the country.
Of even greater interest, however, is the continued rancorous fragmentation of the opposition into smaller units openly hostile to each other, a factor likely to cripple their cause in the forthcoming plebiscite, but no doubt sweet music to Zanu PF's ears.
Since the MDC split into two formations headed by Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube over senate election participation in 2005 Job Sikhala broke away from Ncube's faction to form the MDC 99 in 2010. Ncube's party further split after Arthur Mutambara challenged the outcome of the party's 2011 congress in court.
Since then there have been defections among the parties, further weakening their profiles. Last week we carried a story in which sources revealed Ncube's MDC, Zapu and the Patriotic Union of Matabeleland had signed an agreement to unite during the anticipated elections with the rather perplexing aim of, wait for it, fighting the MDC-T and Zanu PF in Matabeleland and the Midlands. What purpose this would serve is hard to fathom, but the impression is that of a parochial regional outfit safeguarding regional interests.
Zimbabweans have apparently failed to learn from Kenya where a multiplicity of presidential candidates helped former president Daniel Arap Moi retain power before he was defeated by Mwai Kibaki in 2002 after 24 years in power. After learning its lesson, the opposition formed a strong coalition led by Kibaki, eventually ousting Moi.
But chances of that happening in Zimbabwe in the next elections are exceedingly remote, with Ncube's party dismissing reports suggesting a possible coalition with MDC-T as "wishful thinking". The opposition parties are trading barbs in self-serving yet ultimately futile attempts to prove which formation resonates most with the electorate.
Throw in the damaging, lurid details of Tsvangirai's love life splashed in the media last year -- whose impact is yet to be fully determined -- and you have all the makings of an opposition on the ropes.
Where does that leave Zanu PF? Laughing all the way to the polls!