Tsvangirai expects 'free vote' in July
Zimbabwe inched closer to fresh elections - possibly as early as July - yesterday with the announcement that a referendum on a new constitution would most likely take place on March 16.
The announcement of ''tentative date'' was made in Harare by Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga after Zimbabwe's parliament approved the new charter, a compromise hammered out by the country's often fractious power-sharing government.
The new constitution, according to experts, imposes term limits for the head of state and requires that army chiefs and soldiers abide by human rights laws.
It also requires that all judges go through a public interview process.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said yesterday he expected presidential and parliamentary elections in July - and that he did not fear a repeat of violence that overshadowed disputed polls in 2008 that led to a power-sharing government between his Movement for Democratic Change and rival President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.
When questioned about the date for the elections at a human rights forum to discuss the constitution, Tsvangirai said simply "July".
Finance Minister Tendai Biti, worried that there might not be enough money for the referendum and elections, 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.
Tsvangirai said a strict code of conduct and supervision by regional and international observers would help deliver a free vote.
"I am not budgeting for chaos. I am certainly bullish about the way things will go in the elections," he said.
- The chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission resigned from his post on Tuesday, giving ill health as the reason for his decision.