, HARARE, Sep 27 – Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has set out plans for a constitutional referendum in November and March elections, a move that could herald a new step in the country’s troubled political life.
In a High Court filing, seen on Thursday, Mugabe sets out his most concrete timetable to date for two votes that are key to a bipartisan deal designed to stop Zimbabwe descending further into political violence.
The agreement was forged in the aftermath of a bloody presidential election in 2008, which saw rival Morgan Tsvangirai pull out of the poll citing the violence against his supporters.
In the filing, Mugabe laid out plans for Zimbabweans to vote on a controversial new constitution in early November.
Setting out a timetable for popular votes to be held in the next six months, Mugabe listed a “referendum, expected to take place during the first week of November.”
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has objected to many aspects of the draft law and has said elections should take place regardless of the result – calling the road map into question.
Mugabe now appears determined to press forward. But elections without a new constitution could prompt objections from international observers, who argue a fair vote is not possible under current laws.
“The applicant’s desire is to hold the harmonised elections in the last week of March 2013 and a proclamation to this effect will be made at the appropriate time,” the filing said.
The elections will choose a successor to the shaky power-sharing government formed three years ago between Mugabe and his political nemesis Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe’s court filing also represents a request to scrap three parliamentary by-elections for seats that have been vacant for years.
“Due to the unavailability of financial resources the applicant is asking that the holding of the by-elections be further extended to 31st March 2013.
The seats fell vacant after lawmakers from a splinter group of now Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party crossed the aisle to join Tsvangirai’s faction.
They were expelled from their party in 2009 and lost their parliamentary seats.
Mugabe said there was no money for the by-elections to be held.
“Due to the unavailability of financial resources the applicant is asking that the holding of the by-elections be further extended to 31st March 2013, the idea being to subsume the holding of the by-elections in the harmonised elections to be held in the last week of March 2013.”