Zimbabwe court rejects bid to delay July 31 election


Zimbabweans turn out in their numbers to vote in the constitutional referendum in Harare on March 16, 2013. Polls opened in Zimbabwe early Saturday for a key referendum on a new constitution that would curb President Robert Mugabe's powers and pave the way for elections later in the year.

Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court rejected on Thursday a series of government appeals to delay a general election set for July 31.

Both President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who have been in a fractious coalition government since 2008, had requested the postponement, saying the country needed more time to prepare for a free and fair election.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku did not give detailed reasons for the court's unanimous rejection of the requests.

More from GlobalPost: Zimbabwe court orders elections held by July 31

"For the avoidance of doubt, elections should proceed on the 31st of July in terms of the proclamation by the President of Zimbabwe in compliance with the order of this court," Chidyausiku said.

Tsvangirai's spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka, said the prime minister had accepted the ruling.

"Since the court has ruled, it means we have to go by that date," he said.

Human Rights Watch reported last month that army soldiers had beaten and abused perceived opponents of Mugabe. The US-based organizations said security forces must be restrained if the next election is to be credible.

Zimbabwe's last presidential election in 2008 was plagued with violence against Tsvangirai supporters. Mugabe's win was rejected and he was forced to form a power-sharing government. The 89-year-old president has ruled Zimbabwe since it gained its independence in 1980.