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opposition wants new laws before vote
MacDonald Dzirutwe, Reuters
January 02, 2008
Zimbabwe's main opposition
leader said on Wednesday his party might boycott March elections
unless President Robert Mugabe's government implements a new constitution
to guarantee a fair vote.
Morgan Tsvangirai, head
of the main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
said talks with Mugabe's ZANU-PF to hammer out a new constitution
had ground to a halt because the ruling party wanted to delay implementation
until after the elections.
"There is already
a deadlock," Tsvangirai told Reuters in an interview.
"What we know and
what we believe is that a basis for a free and fair contest is ...
that there should be negotiations and those negotiations should
lead to all parties accepting that the conditions are free and fair.
Without that, it will be a unilateral position by Mugabe and not
ZANU-PF and the MDC have
been in talks on revamping the constitution since June in an effort
to end political and economic turmoil, and ensure future election
results are accepted by all parties.
The talks have so far
yielded changes to electoral, media and security laws. Officials
from both sides say the new constitution, which has not been made
public, includes unspecified 'frameworks' to guarantee free and
"It is actually
a contestable issue to have an election without a transitional constitution
because it is that constitution that creates the institutions that
run elections in a free and fair manner," Tsvangirai said.
Ruling party officials
have said a draft constitution agreed with the MDC could be made
public this month and that Mugabe wants it to be implemented after
the elections. The MDC wants it adopted before the vote.
Mugabe has said presidential
and parliamentary elections will be held in March, but the MDC wants
it pushed back to allow time to implement the new constitution and
the media, security and electoral changes agreed at the talks.
Tsvangirai, who has accused
Mugabe of rigging past elections, said that if the deadlock can
be overcome, the opposition was ready to face the veteran Zimbabwe
leader at the polls and that the fractured opposition would field
a single candidate for each contested seat.
The MDC has been severely
weakened by infighting which resulted in a sharp split in October
2005 and a crackdown by Mugabe's government that has paralysed its
Mugabe denies rigging
past elections and says the MDC has lost support of voters and fears
a ZANU-PF landslide victory despite an economic crisis that has
seen inflation spiral and unemployment surge. (Editing by Phumza
Macanda and Caroline Drees)
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