Elections to choose a new government in Zimbabwe will go ahead on July 31, the disputed date that President Robert Mugabe, had unilaterally set, the country’s top court ruled on Thursday. The court dismissed appeals by both Mugabe and his nemesis Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, to have the date postponed following pressure from regional leaders. “Elections should proceed on the 31st of July 2013 in terms of the proclamation by the president in compliance with the order of this court,” chief justice Godfrey Chidyausiku ruled. The presidential vote will be held on the same day as parliamentary elections to replace an uneasy power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai in place since 2009. Mugabe had lodged an appeal to shift by two weeks the date that he had himself set, after regional bloc the Southern African Development Community (SADC) asked him to allow more time for preparations.
Tsvangirai, who accuses Mugabe and his allies of failing to implement promised reforms ahead of the vote, had wanted an even longer extension to allow time for the overhauls, and lodged a separate petition.
But “after perusing the papers, and hearing counsel in this matter, the court unanimously concludes that the applications should be and are hereby dismissed,” said Chidyausiku.
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party dismissed the ruling as “a political decision not a legal one.”
“The decision does not legally make sense. The constitutional court did not apply its mind adequately,” MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora told AFP.
There was no immediate reaction from Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party, but Mugabe’s lawyer welcomed the constitutional court ruling.
“We hope the elections will be held in a peaceful environment,” advocate Terence Hussein told journalists outside court.
The court’s ruling came as the two presidential rivals readied to launch their election campaigns this weekend.