Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe 'will follow election ruling'

Robert Mugabe and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe (left) prior to talks in Yokohama, Japan (1 June 2013)
Image caption Robert Mugabe has been visiting Japan for a conference on African development

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has said he will abide by a court ruling to hold elections by the end of July.

Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court said on Friday that elections must be held by 31 July, and that Mr Mugabe should set a date "as soon as possible".

Mr Mugabe has been in coalition with the former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai since 2009.

Mr Tsvangirai's party has said it is ready for "free and fair elections".

The Movement for Democratic Change says it has no problem with July elections, as long as its demands for reforms to voter registration and Zimbabwe's media are met.

New constitution

According to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), Mr Mugabe said he would comply with the court's decision and would set a date for elections after consulting with the Minister of Justice and Legal affairs.

A new constitution, backed by the main parties and approved in a referendum in March, was signed into law in May.

The MDC had called for the elections to be held later this year, so that changes in the new constitution could be implemented.

Mr Mugabe, who is 89, has led Zimbabwe since 1980.

He is likely to face Mr Tsvangirai in the presidential poll.

The coalition government has helped end hyperinflation that saw Zimbabwe's economy collapse, but the administration has been fraught with squabbles over introducing reforms.

The ZBC quoted Mr Mugabe as saying the coalition government had "outlived its usefulness".


Five years ago, Mr Tsvangirai won the most votes in the first round of the presidential election but, according to official results, not enough to win outright.

He pulled out of the second round, saying his supporters were being targeted in a campaign of violence.

After Mr Mugabe went ahead with the election, winning with 85% of votes cast, regional mediators intervened to organise a power-sharing agreement.

The president, who was speaking on a trip to Japan for a summit, said he would not step down in response to calls from other countries.

"I've thought about retirement, but not when the British are saying we want regime change," Mr Mugabe told Japan's Kyodo news agency.

"I won't be changed by the British. My people will change me."

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