HARARE Voter registration for elections in Zimbabwe, due to have started last week, has been delayed due to a lack of funds, a cabinet minister said on Thursday.
The presidential and parliamentary elections are part of a 2010 agreement between President Robert Mugabe and his rival Morgan Tsvangirai which led to the formation of an interim power-sharing government as a way to end years of political and economic strife.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was due to start a 60-day voter registration and education campaign on Jan 2. but the Finance Ministry had not yet released the funding required, Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone told reporters.
Mugabe, who turns 89 next month, has pushed for the poll to be held as early as March.
The power-sharing government, put in place after disputed and violent elections in 2008, has brought stability to a country whose economy was crushed by hyperinflation. Renewed election violence could erase the gains made over the past few years.
Makone also said after meeting Tsvangirai, who is prime minister in the power-sharing government, that she would talk to ministry officials to find out how that money could be released.
The power-sharing deal calls for electoral reforms and a new constitution be in place before a new round of elections.
Mugabe's current five-year presidential term and that of parliament end in June, and according to the constitution, a new election must be held within four months.
The reforms and debate on the new supreme law have both hit snags, with analysts not expecting polls until later in 2013.
Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, and members of his ruling ZANU-PF have been hit with international sanctions for human rights abuses and suspected vote rigging. He denies any wrongdoing.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Angus MacSwan)