27 February 2013

Zimbabwe: MDC-T to Vet Candidates

THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) will vet parliamentary and council election aspirants in its ranks over the weekend despite criticism that the party's leadership was protecting sitting candidates from being contested during primary polls to be held soon.

MDC-T national spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora confirmed his party's national executive council would convene on Saturday in Gweru to review applications submitted by those wishing to contest in primary elections.

"We have received all applications and curriculum vitaes from about 4 900 people who seem to see a future in the party. The party's elections directorate is currently processing the applications but we will meet on March 2 as the national executive council to discuss the names of those who qualify," he said.

Mwonzora refused to disclose names of MDC-T heavyweights who are facing stiff competition from new parliamentary hopefuls saying such information would only be available after the meeting.

Last year, a storm erupted in the MDC-T after guidelines for parliamentary elections were revealed. Of particular concern was the requirement that sitting councillors and legislators would be subjected to a confirmation processes before facing anyone in the primaries. This means that they would only be subjected to primaries if they fail to accrue a two-thirds majority from the voting population in their area.

This has been interpreted to mean that there could be cases of an elite class in the MDC-T that would be protected from ouster.

Critics of the "confirmation system" have repeatedly lashed out at the MDC-T leadership with some aspiring parliamentarians saying the party was seeking to protect certain individuals while some likened the party to its arch foes, ZANU-PF who have previously courted similar controversy for imposing candidates.

Asked to comment on allegations that his party was seeking to protect incumbents, Mwonzora said this was not the case.

"Actually, the confirmation system exposes an individual Member of Parliament as they must be confirmed by a two-thirds majority in the constitution. What it does is that it allows people to evaluate the MPs," said Mwonzora.

Late last year, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's acting spokesperson William Bango said the stringent measures put for primary elections would help the party weed out imposters and help ensure that only suitable candidates of good repute would represent it in the coming elections.

MDC-T organising secretary Nelson Chamisa also tried to calm the party's supporters by assuring them at a rally late last year that there would be no imposition of candidates come primary election time.

But he met the same criticism that the clause in the party's constitution requiring the "endorsement" of a sitting office bearer as opposed to going straight to primary elections perpetuates undemocratic tendencies and abuse of office.

Yet indications are that the party leadership may not change tact and would instead insist on the system which they say has been used successfully over the years.

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