Robert Mugabe agrees to change election date: report


Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace attend the Inauguration Mass for Pope Francis in St Peter's Square on March 19, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Meanwhile, Zimbabweans voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new constitution that limits the powers of the presidency.


Peter Macdiarmid

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has bowed to pressure from Southern African leaders to delay an upcoming election scheduled for July 31.

The Financial Times reports from Harare that Mugabe has agreed to push the date of the elections back to August 14.

The 15-country Southern Africa Development Community on Saturday called on  Mugabe to delay the elections and make sure there was enough time to enact reforms that would ensure the polls are free and fair.

The much-awaited vote in Zimbabwe aims to end the shaky power-sharing government between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, formed as part of a plan to end political bloodshed.

But the president's decision to fast-track the election has plunged Zimbabwe into political crisis.

Tsvangirai has said he would veto any election date that comes before media, security and electoral reforms are made.

The Financial Times reports that the agreement to push back the election was made after a meeting of the SADC in neighboring Mozambique.

Though Mugabe's supporters viewed the date change as a setback, the 89-year-old leader described the decision as “a happy outcome for Zimbabwe".

"The final decision was that perhaps we should appeal to the court to examine the reasons for the arguments that have been made by others for giving people a little longer time," Mugabe said.

"Our Ministry of Justice is going to do that."

Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since 1980, said his opponents were trying to delay the elections because they were afraid of defeat.

"The other parties do not want elections, they are afraid of elections," Mugabe told Zimbabwe's state-owned Sunday Mail.

"They know they are going to lose and it's a sure case that they are going to lose."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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