HARARE — Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe launched his campaign to extend his 33 years in power on Friday by threatening to pull his country out of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), accusing the group of bias after it recently asked him to postpone the election.
"We are in SADC voluntarily," Mugabe said, warning the 15-nation group against interfering in upcoming presidential polls. "If SADC decides to do stupid things, we can move out and withdraw from SADC."
The SADC had made appeals to delay the July 31 election amid fears the poll would be reminiscent of the violent and hotly disputed 2008 election, in which Mugabe claimed victory but regional leaders rejected the result as a sham.
On Thursday, Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court ruled the elections must be held on July 31 as planned.
For several years, the SADC has played a crucial role in trying to stabilize Zimbabwe. After the 2008 election, the regional bloc pressured Mugabe into forming a power-sharing government with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is now prime minister.
Tsvangirai had also pushed to delay this month's polls, saying the country must implement reforms to electoral laws and security forces if elections are to be free and fair.
Last month, Human Rights Watch said the country's pro-Mugabe police and armed forces attempted to intimidate opponents via through arrests and beatings.
Tsvangirai is expected to launch his election campaign on Sunday at an appearance about 100 kilometers east of Harare.