Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai rejects July 31 election date

HARARE Thu Jun 13, 2013 7:06am EDT

Zimbabwean Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai speaks at a news conference in Harare June 12, 2013. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwean Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai speaks at a news conference in Harare June 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

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HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Thursday rejected a plan by President Robert Mugabe to hold an election on July 31, accusing his rival of breaking the constitution and fomenting a political crisis in the southern African nation.

Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe could hold an election no earlier than August 25, adding that Mugabe, his partner in a factious unity government, was violating a power-sharing agreement set up after bloody and disputed polls five years ago.

"Mugabe is deliberately precipitating a constitutional crisis," Tsvangirai told a news conference. He reiterated his view that the state media and security forces needed to be reformed before any poll to ensure it was fair.

An hour before Tsvangirai's comments, Mugabe fast-tracked changes to electoral laws by using a presidential decree to by-pass parliament in a bid to comply with a constitutional court order to hold elections by July 31.

He has been pushing for early elections, saying the unity government has outlived its tenure.

But Tsvangirai said he would not accept a situation in which Zimbabweans were "railroaded" into "another illegitimate election".

Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change want to open up broadcast media to all parties and impose a code of conduct to stop the army and police meddling in the vote.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Ed Cropley)

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