Zimbabwe's long-time president, Robert Mugabe, is eyeing another term and pushing for a general election next year.
Such a vote is called for under the Global Political Agreement that in early 2009 created the transitional government led by Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Since then, significant gains have been made in that troubled nation, but further reforms are needed for Zimbabwe to achieve full democracy. Among these are steps to allow a free and fair vote. At this important time in its transition, Zimbabwe's future depends on credible elections.
As we begin a new year there have been disturbing signs that some forces, fearing a possible loss of power at the polls, may be preparing for the kind of intimidation and violence seen in the bloody, disputed election held in 2008. That Mugabe has reneged on key provisions in the GPA calling for critical press, electoral and security reforms needed for a free and fair vote only fuels these concerns.
If an election is held in mid-2011 as now envisioned, Zimbabwe's neighbors in the Southern African Development Community are committed to helping achieve one that is free of violence and that accepts the will of the Zimbabwean people. The United States urges the government in Harare to work with SADC and step up the pace of political reform and credible voting preparations.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and others in the international community remain committed to the Zimbabwean people, and are set to continue our significant support for humanitarian and other aid programs tehre. But we will also continue to provide this assistance taking into consideration the transitional government's priorities as reflected in its budget and political reforms.