imbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the country's elections cannot be held in June 2011 as demanded by President Robert Mugabe, saying that before a new ballot is organized a revised constitution must be in place with electoral reforms.
Mr. Tsvangirai made the statement in an interview with Reuters on the margins of the so-called European Development Days conference.
"It is not possible to have elections in June next year because we need to have a referendum first," Tsvangirai told a reporter for the news agency.
"I don't think at the moment you can conduct an election," he said. Tsvangirai warned that a premature election could leave the country back where it was in 2008 following an election marred by compilation delays and anomalies and often deadly violence.
Mr. Mugabe reiterated this weekend that he does not want to extend the life of the unity government beyond February, when it will have been in place for two years. His ZANU-PF party has vowed to hold elections with or without a new constitution.
But Mr. Tsvangirai said that before polls can be held there must be a referendum on the new constitution, a road map to elections and an end to violence.
"When the police, army, militia, war veterans are used to intimidate, coerce, and cause torture and death to the people, that is the kind of violence we need to contain," Mr. Tsvangirai said.
In his keynote address to the development event the Zimbabwean prime minister also called for a global campaign to ensure free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.
Mr. Tsvangirai deplored the tendency in Africa for presidential incumbents to refuse to accept the outcome of elections, as seen this week in Ivory Coast.
But ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo dismissed Mr. Tsvangirari’s comments, saying that only President Mugabe has the power to call elections.
Responding, spokesman Nelson Chamisa of Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change formation said Gumbo was misleading himself.
In Harare, meanwhile, the parliamentary select committee in charge of constitutional revision also flagged a new hurdle to elections, saying constitutional revision is on hold until it can find US$6 million to pay bills from the public outreach phase.
Committee Co-Chairman Douglas Mwonzora said it won’t be possible for the country to hold new elections in 2011 under a new constitution.
Mwonzora told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that his commmittee has spent more than a month on hold due to financial obstacles, so a draft of the new constitution is unlikely to be ready until March 2011 with a referendum possible in June or July.
International donors have refused to add funding to allow the committee to pay its debts to those who worked on or provided services to the outreach campaign, he said, adding that the government has not been forthcoming with funds either.
Mwonzora said the government must fund the constitution-making process so drafting the new document and submitting it to the people can happen in the next six months.
Elsewhere, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called for the nation to vote next year only to elect a new president, arguing that the 2008 general elections were less problematic than was balloting for the executive post. It said there is no point incurring the considerable costs of running another general election so soon.
ZCTU Deputy Secretary General Japhet Moyo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Brenda Moyo that a presidential ballot can readily be organized at any time.