Zimbabwe rival leaders agree on constitution

Mugabe and Tsvangirai agree final draft of a constitution that will be put to a referendum ahead of crucial elections.

    Zimbabwe rival leaders agree on constitution
    Tsvangirai, left, and Mugabe's relations have been marked by bickering and counter-accusations of violence [Reuters]

    Zimbabwe's rival political parties have agreed on a final draft of a constitution that will be put to a referendum ahead of crucial elections expected this year, President Robert Mugabe said.

    "We are glad to say that we have come to the conclusion of the exercise and all parties are agreed," Mugabe told a news conference at his official residence in the capital Harare on Thursday after talks with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

    The text forms the main element of key reforms needed to hold a credible vote after discredited elections in 2008.

    The new basic law would bolster the power of parliament, set a 10-year presidential term limit, and strip away presidential immunity.

    "The finalisation of the draft is now being made," said Mugabe. He did not say when a referendum will be held.

    The process of drafting the new constitution, which started more than two years ago, was plagued by chronic delays and violence at public meetings.

    Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party has already endorsed the text.

    "I am glad to say that ... indeed this concludes a long journey that we have travelled in trying to arrive at this national process," he said.

    Mugabe and Tsvangirai were forced into a power-sharing government in 2009 after the deadly and disputed poll held the previous year.

    Their relations have been characterised by bickering and counter-accusations of violence.

    Mugabe who is 88 and has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, has insisted on elections being held in March while Tsvangirai wanted reforms first, to allow for fair and violence-free polls.

    Tsvangirai, 60, pulled out of a presidential run-off election in 2008, citing the killing of about 300 supporters.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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