Zimbabwe’s Tsvangirai angry with Mugabe over ‘poll date’
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has unilaterally declared that elections will be held on 31 July, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said.
He would not accept the date, saying Mr Mugabe had acted “unconstitutionally”.
Mr Tsvangirai has been pushing for key reforms as a condition for elections.
Mr Mugabe has not officially announced an election date, but has said he would abide by a court ruling that they must be held by 31 July, heralding the end of Zimbabwe’s coalition government.
The two leaders formed the fractious coalition in 2009 under pressure from regional leaders following elections marred by violence and allegations of vote-rigging.
Mr Mugabe, 89, and Mr Tsvangirai, 61, are both expected to contest the presidential election.
As prime minister I cannot and will not accept this”
Mr Tsvangirai told journalists in the capital, Harare, that Zimbabwe could not hold elections before 25 August, Reuters news agency reports.
However, Mr Mugabe had decided to set 31 July as the election date, he said.
“President Mugabe is acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally,” Mr Tsvangirai said.
“As prime minister I cannot and will not accept this.”
About two weeks ago, Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court ruled that elections must take place by 31 July and Mr Mugabe should announce a date “as soon as possible”.
Mr Mugabe said he would abide by the ruling and the coalition had “outlived its usefulness”.
However, Mr Tsvangirai said the court should be asked to review its decision, as more time was needed to prepare for elections.
Parliament is still considering a draft electoral law, under which all parties will be given access to the state broadcaster.
Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has also been pushing for reforms to the security agencies, which it says are allied to Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.
Trevor Maisiri, southern Africa analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank, said the 2009 power-sharing deal requires Mr Mugabe to consult Mr Tsvangirai on an election date, AFP news agency reports.
“The interpretation of the word consultation is a bit of a challenge,” he is quoted as saying.
The MDC argues that it means decisions have to be taken jointly, but Zanu-PF says that Mr Mugabe can decide “with their suggestions”, Mr Maisiri said.
Five years ago, Mr Tsvangirai won the most votes in the first round of the presidential election but, according to official results, not enough to win outright.
He pulled out of the second round, saying his supporters were being targeted in a campaign of violence.
After Mr Mugabe went ahead with the election, winning with 85% of votes cast, regional mediators intervened to organise the power-sharing agreement.
Mr Mugabe has been in power since independence in 1980.
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