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Zimbabwe’s Mugabe to Call Election If Negotiations Stall

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe will call an election if there is no progress in resolving a dispute over constitutional reforms this month, a negotiator for his party said.

An agreement brokered by the 15-nation Southern African Development Community in 2009 led to a coalition government between Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Under that pact a referendum on a new constitution must be held before elections can be called.

“There are about 30 outstanding issues that haven’t been resolved so Zanu-PF has resolved that an election will be called by President Robert Mugabe if no progress is made this month,” Paul Munyaradzi Mangwana, a negotiator for the party, said in a Dec. 19 interview from the capital, Harare.

Negotiations over the elections have stalled over issues including dual citizenship as well as security sector and land reform. The impasse is hampering the country’s economic recovery from a decade-long recession as Mugabe’s party pushes ahead with a program to force foreign and white-owned companies to cede or sell 51 percent of their local assets to black Zimbabweans while the MDC tries to lure foreign investment.

The country has the world’s second-biggest platinum and chrome deposits after South Africa and also has reserves of coal, diamonds and gold. Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (IMP) and Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS) operate platinum mines in the country while Rio Tinto Plc (RIO) runs a diamond mine. Units of Barclays Plc and Standard Chartered Plc (STAN) operate in the country.

People’s Choice

“It isn’t up to Mugabe, it is up to the people of Zimbabwe,” Tsvangirai said in a Dec. 20 interview from Harare. “It’s their constitution and they own it. Leaders of political parties don’t own it.”

Mugabe, 88, and Tsvangirai, 60, have fought a series of elections since 2000, all of which have been judged by observers including those from the European Union as having been marred by violence, largely against Tsvangirai’s supporters, and electoral irregularities.

Mugabe has repeatedly said he will call elections as soon as March, whether the country has voted on a new constitution or not.

“That he cannot do,” Tsvangirai said. “The election date has to be agreed by all parties and SADC.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Latham in Johannesburg at blatham@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria in Johannesburg at nseria@bloomberg.net.

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