Zimbabwean PM Tsvangirai rejects July election deadline set by President Mugabe
Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has rejected yesterday's declaration by President Robert Mugabe of an election on July 31, accusing his rival of breaching the constitution and creating a political crisis.
The Constitutional Court ordered Mugabe two weeks ago to hold the poll by the end of July, following an application to the court by a citizen demanding the president set a date before the current parliament expired.
Mugabe, who had been pushing for an early vote, announced the date, fast-tracking changes to election laws by using a presidential decree to bypass parliament.
A furious Tsvangirai, his partner in a fractious unity government, criticised him for complying with the court ruling rather than seeking an extension to the July 31 deadline.
The prime minister said Zimbabwe should hold the vote no earlier than August 25 to allow for reforms of the media and security forces to ensure it was fair.
He said Mugabe, leader of the Zanu-PF party, was violating the constitution and a power-sharing agreement set up after bloody and disputed polls five years ago, by not consulting him before announcing the election date.
"President Mugabe has acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally, and is deliberately creating … an unnecessary constitutional crisis," Tsvangirai said.
Mugabe officials were not available for comment.
Mugabe's announcement, just two days before a meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), is likely to infuriate diplomats trying to mediate between him and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.
The SADC is desperate to avoid a repeat of the disputed 2008 poll, which sparked violence and flooded neighbouring countries with refugees.