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Zimbabwe parties reject poll deadline

06 June 2013, 08:51

Johannesburg - Five main rivals of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday rejected an election deadline set by the country's top court.

Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court last week ordered Mugabe to set a date before the end of July for crucial elections, which will end the long serving ruler's uncomfortable four-year power-sharing government with his top rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

But leaders of five political parties, including Tsvangirai, "expressed reservations about the practicality" of the deadline given the gamut of reforms still to be made to ensure a credible poll.

The court's decision last Friday was in response to a case brought by a journalist and democracy activist, Jealousy Mawarire.

In a statement after a meeting in Harare, the five leaders said the court's action "ironically supposedly informed by the desire to safeguard the rights of the individual applicant, has resulted in the infringement of the rights of millions of Zimbabweans."

The court's decision to bring elections forward has played into the hands of Mugabe, who has always wanted to have early elections.

Mugabe had wanted elections by the end of the current parliamentary term on 29 June.

Yet his opponents are pushing for a later date to allow more time for all major reforms to be effected to guarantee a free and fair vote.

One of their main complaints is inadequate time for voter registration.

They also want security and media laws they say infringe on free political activity to be changed before the vote.

Security institutions - which are widely seen as pro-Mugabe - need to be reformed to abide by the new constitution, which forbids partisanship, said the leaders.

Human Rights Watch has urged the country's power-sharing government to "rein in the security forces and keep them out of politics if the elections are going to have any meaning".

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