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Zimbabwe minister doubts polls this year

16 February 2012, 08:10

Harare - Zimbabwe's constitutional affairs minister on Wednesday cast doubt on President Robert Mugabe's bid to hold elections this year.

A referendum on a proposed new constitution must take place before the holding of general elections.

"My assessment is the earliest we can have a referendum [on the constitution] is August or September," Eric Matinenga told journalists.

"We are in the process of looking at the draft, which is strictly speaking not a draft but preliminary work in progress. We have looked at four chapters. There are another 18 chapters and we also have to look at issues that are outstanding," he said.

Matinenga, a lawyer and member of the Movement for Democratic Change - the party of Mugabe's long-time rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai - said the government would then have to clean up the voters' roll and mark out constituency boundaries before elections can be held.

"Everybody agrees that we need a good voters' roll before the elections," he said.

"If we are going to have that after the constitution, you can do your own calculations and estimate when we are likely to have elections.

"You are also aware that we are going to have a census this year which is going to assist in the delimitation exercise," he added.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a power-sharing government in 2009 to mend an economy ravaged by hyperinflation and avoid a descent into civil war in the aftermath of a bloody presidential runoff election.

They agreed to a raft of reforms, including amending media and electoral laws, changing the composition of the top officers in the security forces and drafting a new constitution before new elections.

The constitution-writing process is running behind schedule but Mugabe, 87, has said new elections would be held this year.


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