HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will hold elections by the end of July in line with a court order, angering rivals who want them delayed to allow for reforms to ensure a fair vote, state media reported on Sunday.
The Constitutional Court ruled on Friday that parliamentary and presidential polls must take place before July 31 and that Mugabe must set a date for them before parliament’s term ends on June 29, stoking a political row over the timing and funding of the vote in the southern African state.
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation quoted Mugabe as saying he would comply with the court decision and would set the date after consulting Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
The court ruling followed an application by rights activist Jealousy Mawarire demanding that Mugabe, 89 and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, call elections this month.
Mugabe’s main challenger for the presidency will be his long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai, who says the vote can only be truly democratic if reforms are enacted to open up broadcast media, register new voters and make the military apolitical.
His Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it would have no problem with a July election date if its demands were met.
“The election date must be process-driven and so if ZANU-PF (Mugabe’s party) cooperates and we speed up what we need for a free and fair election, we can all easily fulfill the court order,” MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora told Reuters.
Disputed polls in 2008 led to a power-sharing government. Mugabe denies charges that he has used violence and rigged the last four major elections to retain office.
There is also uncertainty over funding for the elections. Finance Minister Tendai Biti, a senior MDC member, has said he is struggling to find $132 million needed for the vote. Regional leaders have called a special fund-raising summit for Zimbabwe.
Reporting by Cris Chinaka; Editing by Alistair Lyon