, HARARE, June 17 – Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday backed calls by regional grouping SADC for his archrival President Robert Mugabe to delay crucial polls due by the end of July.
“We have to hold elections by October 31,” Tsvangirai’s spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka told AFP.
The constitutional court last month ruled fresh polls have to be held by July 31, a date which Mugabe has backed, but Tsvangirai wants electoral reforms passed first and argues the law allows for three more months.
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and Tsvangirai’s MDC parties have since 2009 been in an uneasy coalition formed in the aftermath of deadly post election violence the previous year.
On Saturday, the 15 country Southern Africa Development Community urged Mugabe to request a delay from the constitutional court.
The bloc also urged the 89 year old president to “undertake immediate measures to create a conducive environment for the holding of peaceful, credible, free and fair elections.”
“SADC did not suggest a date. To us the date is subservient to the reforms. The reforms should come first and the latest we can have elections is by October 31,” Tsvangirai’s spokesman said.
The prime minister argues that a July deadline will not allow for free and fair polls. He wants reforms in the media and security services, and says the voters’ roll needs to be rid of ghost voters before the elections.
He has said he would veto the polls if reforms are not implemented but Mugabe has accused him of being afraid to lose.
“The other parties do not want elections, they are afraid of elections,” Mugabe was quoted as saying in the state owned Sunday Mail newspaper.
“They know they are going to lose and it’s a sure case that they are going to lose.”