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TSVANGIRAI SAYS ZIMBABWE ELECTIONS EXPECTED IN JULY

By NBF News
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Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said on Wednesday he expected mpresidential and parliamentary elections in the southern African country to be held in July after a nationwide vote on a new constitution next month.

Addressing a human rights forum on a constitution approved by parliament last week, Tsvangirai said the power-sharing government that his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formed with rival President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party after disputed polls in 2008 would seek a fresh election in July.

When asked when the elections would be held, Tsvangirai simply said “July”.

There was no immediate comment from ZANU-PF on whether the timetable given by Tsvangirai had been agreed with Mugabe, the 88-year-old political veteran who has ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1980.

But for months, the entrenched president has said he wants fresh polls by mid-year before the destitute southern African state hosts a global conference on tourism, which analysts say Harare wants to use to rebrand itself after years of isolation.

Before Tsvangirai's comments at the human rights forum, Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga told reporters the power-sharing government had set March 16 as the tentative date for the referendum on the constitution.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti, worried that there might not be enough money for the vote on the constitution and the general election, has approached donors for help.

By law, the next elections are due when the current presidential and parliamentary terms expire at the end of June although there has been speculation ZANU-PF and the MDC could extend it while working on more political reforms.

The last polls were marred by violence and allegations of vote-rigging, blamed mostly on Mugabe's war veteran supporters and ZANU-PF youth brigades.