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Zimbabwe PM Rejects President Mugabe's Renewed Call for Early Elections

Addressing journalists at his monthly media briefing, Mr. Tsvangirai said his party will continue to insist that any fresh polls in the country be predicated by reforms

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday rejected fresh calls by President Robert Mugabe for elections this year saying reforms and outstanding issues in the accord upon which the coalition government was formed need to be implemented first.

Addressing journalists during his monthly media briefing in Harare, Mr. Tsvangirai, leader of the mainstream Movement for Democratic Change, insisted that fresh polls should be predicated on reforms that promote a free and fair election.

President Mugabe threatened last Friday to dissolve parliament and call elections, citing failure by a committee leading the writing of a new charter, to produce a draft constitution that he wants put to a referendum next month.

He said he would unilaterally set the election date, but Mr. Tsvangirai insisted that Mugabe did not have the powers to do so.

"We continue to insist that any credible poll must be predicated on reforms," Tsvangirai said. "We expect the president to respect the constitution, to respect the law of the land and the roadmap that SADC has outlined."

Backed by the so-called hawks in his ZANU-PF party, Mugabe reiterated his plans to cut short the term of parliament so he can force an early election, even in the absence of a new constitution.

Mr. Mugabe, currently in Singapore on what his aides say is a private visit, has given his chief negotiators in the Management Committee of the Parliamentary Select Committee drafting the new constitution, until Wednesday to resolve all outstanding issues in the constitution-making process.

He has accused Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation of stalling the process to delay fresh polls.

Issues that remain outstanding include devolution, land, dual citizenship and the number of vice presidents the country should have.

Mugabe told his party’s central committee last Friday that if the deadlock continues, he will revert to the Lancaster House constitution, which he claims gives him the right as to dissolve parliament and call elections.

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told VOA's Blessing Zulu that his party is seriously concerned by the select committee’s failure to deliver the draft constitution on time.

Responding, Finance Minister and Tsvangirai MDC's secretary general, Tendai Biti, said Mr. Mugabe cannot hold the management committee to ransom, adding he also does not have the power to unilaterally call for elections.