Mugabe's poll countdown
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has set out plans for a constitutional referendum in November and elections in March, a timetable quickly denounced by the opposition as "unrealistic".
In a high court filing yesterday, Mugabe presented his most concrete timetable to date for two votes key to a bipartisan deal designed to stop further political violence.
Setting out the votes to be held in the next six months, Mugabe listed a "referendum, expected to take place during the first week of November".
The document said he wanted to "hold the harmonised elections in the last week of March 2013" and a proclamation to this effect would be made at the appropriate time.
The elections could be a major step towards recasting Zimbabwe's troubled political scene, choosing a successor to the shaky power-sharing government between Mugabe and his nemesis, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. But Tsvangirai's allies in the Movement for Democratic Change have voiced their objections to Mugabe's plan.
MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said "the dates being proposed are clearly not feasible".
"The date for the election especially is unilateral, unrealistic and has no scientific or legal basis."
He said his party was more concerned about the conditions under which the vote would take place than the dates on which they would take place .
"For us to meet those dates, Zanu-PF has to change drastically. We want elections to be held in conditions that allow the secrecy of the vote and the security of both the vote and the voter," said Mwonzora.
There might also be electoral reasons for the MDC to seek a delay in the polls.
After 32 years in power, 88-year-old Mugabe has seen his political star rise in recent months as the MDC has been troubled by divisions and tainted by corruption scandals.
A recent Afrobarometer poll showed Zanu-PF running neck-and-neck with the MDC.
Analyst Trevor Maisiri said Mugabe's timetable was "quite feasible", though a raft of reforms would need to be introduced.
As part of the pact that gave birth to the government of national unity, the parties agreed to a raft of reforms, including drafting a new constitution and tinkering with security, electoral and media laws.
There are still doubts about whether a new constitution, which would include term limits, will be passed.
Elections without a new constitution might prompt objections from international observers.
But there is also deep scepticism over Mugabe's motives after a series of opaque election plans came to nothing.
"Zanu-PF has been calling for elections since 2010, and it couldn't have its way in 2010, it couldn't have its way in 2011. March 2013 is the nearest feasible time it can have an election," said Maisiri.
Mugabe's court filing included a request to scrap dates for three parliamentary by-elections, which he had been under the high court order to announce by Monday.