Robert Mugabe says Zimbabwe elections will be held before 31 July
Zimbabwean president promises to abide by court ruling calling for
elections, despite objections from opposition
Associated Press in Harare
The Guardian, Monday 3 June 2013 02.58 AEST
The Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, has said he will abide by a court
ruling that crucial elections must be held before the end of July, despite
objections from his rivals.
Mugabe told the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp travelling with him on a trip to
Japan that he would convene polls “not later than 31 July”, state radio
Mugabe, interviewed by the broadcaster on Sunday, claimed some members in a
coalition with Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister and former opposition
leader, wanted to delay the elections “to enjoy being in power” for longer,
the radio said.
The constitutional court, the nation’s highest court, on Friday chided
Mugabe for not calling elections linked to the dissolution of the parliament
at the end of its current five-year term on 29 June.
Tsvangirai said electoral and democratic reforms demanded under the
coalition agreement and a new constitution could not be completed by 31
Mugabe travelled to Japan to attend an African development summit in
Yokahama. He described the coalition formed by regional leaders after the
last violent and disputed elections in 2008 as having “outlived its
usefulness”, the radio said.
The president said he was consulting the justice minister, Patrick
Chinamasa, on changes to the electoral laws that should be finished in June
so he could announce the actual polling date for the following month.
Tsvangirai’s party said on Sunday that unless reforms to voters’ lists and
the registration of new voters were in place before voting there would be
doubt over whether conditions allowed for a free and fair election.
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change said it also demanded media
reforms to end bias by the country’s dominant state media controlled by
Mugabe loyalists and an end to political intimidation and partisan actions
by the police and military.
Those demands are written into a new constitution that was overwhelmingly
accepted in a referendum in March, the party said.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, the MDC is ready for free and fair
elections. The issue is not about the date but about the conditions under
which these elections can be held,” said the party spokesman Douglas
Pro-democracy activists allege Mugabe’s own fractious Zanu-PF party wants
early polls to take advantage of flaws in existing election procedures,
shorten rigorous campaigning by its increasingly frail leader and hinder the
deployment of regional election monitors.
Mugabe, 89, who led the nation to independence in 1980, has been accused of
packing the courts with sympathetic judges whom he appoints from the justice
ministry and the legal profession.
Seven out of nine constitutional court judges ruled on Friday that Mugabe
had violated his constitutional responsibilities by failing to declare polls
by 29 June.
But Judge Luke Malaba, in his dissenting opinion available on an official
website on Sunday, said his colleagues’ ruling “defied logic” in finding
Mugabe was in breach of his constitutional responsibilities “and at the same
time authorising him to continue acting unlawfully” by proclaiming a July
“That is a very dangerous principle and has no basis in law. The principle
of the rule of law just does not permit such an approach,” wrote Malaba.
He said the new constitution made it clear that elections could be held
within four months of the automatic dissolution of the parliament on 29 June
and to hold them in July compromised constitutional rights for the
electorate as a whole “to play a meaningful role in the electoral process”,
A private lawsuit brought before the constitutional court to force Mugabe to
call early polls turned clear and unambiguous language in the law into “a
question of interpretation that plunged the court into irreconcilable
“I, however, refuse to have wool cast over the inner eye of my mind on this
matter,” concluded Malaba.
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