HARARE — A court in Zimbabwe has a granted President Robert Mugabe's request to extend a deadline to call for elections to fill nearly 200 parliamentary and municipal seats. Earlier this week, Mugabe asked the court for more time to generate the money needed to run the vote.
Mugabe was given until the first of October to organize the by-election by High Court Judge Justice George Chiweshe.
Advocate Ray Goba, who represented the president, leader of the ZANU-PF party, explained why his client cannot call for elections immediately as ordered by the court.
“Why is the president seeking an extension? Well, the applicant is desirous to comply with the order," Goba said. "Conducting 28 parliamentary and 164 local authority by-elections is tantamount is to holding a mini-general election. To conduct such by-election, [the] government would require to mobilize huge financial resources and to consult wildly over the matter.”
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change party, who formed a fragile power sharing government with Mugabe in 2009, told journalists that the president would not call for an election since there were some “administrative” issues to be dealt with.
Now that he has more time, Mugabe is expected to call for the “mini-general election” as ordered by the court.
The seats that have to be filled became vacant for reasons ranging from deaths to expulsions of the incumbents.
Zimbabwe is due to have general elections sometime next year, once ZANU-PF and the MDC sort out differences over a new constitution. Mr. Tsvangirai and the MDC have said the elections can not take place until the new constitution has been adopted, in order to ensure free and fair elections.
Zimbabwe's last elections in 2008 were deeply marred by violence, most of it by ZANU-PF supporters against perceived supporters of the MDC.