Zimbabwe’s high court has granted President Robert Mugabe’s wish to postpone by-elections until next year, when the country will vote a successor to its shaky power-sharing government.
Justice George Chiweshe late on Tuesday ruled that parliamentary by-elections for three seats left vacant for three years should be held by 31 March next year, the date Mugabe has suggested for general elections.
In a court filing, Mugabe argued there was no money to hold the by-elections – which his party is almost certain to lose – given the country had to pay for both a constitutional referendum and a general election in coming months.
The filing contained the first mention of a possible date for the vote to end the uneasy power-sharing deal between Mugabe and arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai, who has argued the poll date is too soon.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a power-sharing government in 2009 following violent polls to avoid a tip into a full-fledged conflict.
In the pact which gave birth to the compromise government, the parties agreed to a raft of reforms and crafting a new charter before new elections.
In his court papers Mugabe said the election date would be proclaimed “at the appropriate time” while a referendum on a new draft to pave way for new elections was expected in November.
The country’s electoral commission on Tuesday said it needs US$104 million to organise the referendum, and required at least six weeks to arrange the vote.
A draft constitution negotiated by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, Tsvangirai’s MDC party and the MDC splinter group was finished in August.
The process was plagued by delays and violence at public meetings.