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Mugabe says elections by 31 July

03 June 2013, 08:22

Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on Sunday that he would abide by a court ruling to hold crucial elections before the end of July despite objections from his rivals.

Mugabe told journalists travelling with him on a trip to Japan that he would convene polls "not later than 31 July".

Mugabe said some members in a coalition with former opposition leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai wanted to delay the elections "to enjoy being in power" for longer, a radio broadcast 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 July.

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 with Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa on changes to the electoral laws that should be finished in June so he could then 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 were written into a new constitution overwhelmingly accepted in a referendum in March, the party said.

Mugabe, 89, who led the nation to independence in 1980, has been accused of packing the courts with sympathetic judges that he appoints from the justice ministry and the legal profession.

Seven out of nine Constitutional Court judges ruled on Friday that Mugabe violated his constitutional responsibilities by failing to declare polls by 29 June.

- AP


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