Zimbabwe’s highest court has received an application from Robert Mugabe’s party to delay crucial elections by at least two weeks following pressure from regional leaders. The president has insisted he is merely abiding by a previous court order in holding general elections on 31 July. The prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, a longtime opponent of Mugabe and opposition leader, wants the vote to be held in September. Zimbabwe’s last elections in 2008 were plagued by violence and ultimately forced Mugabe to join a power-sharing government with the opposition. Officials at the constitutional court said the papers submitted by Mugabe’s party asked the court to review the earlier ruling that called for a vote before the end of July.
Wednesday’s move comes days after southern African regional leaders met in Mozambique and pushed for an extension until 14 August so key electoral reforms and poll preparations can take place.
The justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, said in the papers filed at the constitutional court that he was directed by a summit of the regional presidents in Mozambique to file an urgent application to postpone the elections and asked for an extension to 14 August, court officials said.
Tomaz Salomão, secretary general of the 15-nation regional, political and economic bloc known as the Southern African Development Community, or SADC, said on Tuesday the presidents had urged Mugabe and all political groups to heed their concerns over early elections. He said the SADC grouping pledged to recognise any new decision by Zimbabwe’s highest court.
“If the court does not accept the appeal our task is to deploy our observers to ensure there is at least a conducive environment for elections,” he said.