Zimbabweeans Approve New Constitution in Referendum

Photographer: Alexander Joe/AFP via Getty Images

People check elections results outside a polling station in Mbare, Zimbabwe. Close

People check elections results outside a polling station in Mbare, Zimbabwe.

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Photographer: Alexander Joe/AFP via Getty Images

People check elections results outside a polling station in Mbare, Zimbabwe.

Zimbabweans approved a new constitution to set up fresh elections later this year that will pit President Robert Mugabe against his longtime rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The constitution was passed with 3.08 million votes in favor and 179,489 against in the March 16 referendum, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said today in the capital, Harare. There were 56,627 spoiled ballots. Both Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change called for a yes vote.

The vote was a pre-requisite for presidential elections in line with an agreement brokered by the 15-nation Southern African Development Community following disputed polls in 2008 that international observers said were marred by violence. SADC and the U.S. called the referendum peaceful.

“Since the majority of votes were received in favor of the adoption of the draft constitution, the draft constitution is declared to have been adopted by the people of Zimbabwe as the constitution of Zimbabwe,” Chief Election Officer Lovemore Sekeramai told reporters in the capital, Harare.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai have shared power in a coalition government since 2009. Zimbabwe holds the world’s biggest platinum and chrome deposits after South Africa and also has reserves of coal, diamonds and gold.

The new constitution restricts the president to two five- year terms and requires a two-thirds vote by members of parliament to approve a state of emergency. It also guarantees Zimbabweans freedom from torture or degrading treatment and bans detention without trial, while security forces are barred from being members of a political party or group.

Land Ownership

Provisions on land ownership in the new constitution mean white-run commercial farms won’t be returned to their former owners.

Mugabe, 89, who’s ruled the southern African nation since independence from the U.K. 33 years ago, isn’t barred from contesting elections as the presidential term limits aren’t retroactive.

Western nations and international human-rights groups have accused Mugabe of rigging elections since 2000 and brutalizing his opponents to cling to power.

To contact the reporters on this story: Godfrey Marawanyika in Johannesburg at gmarawanyika@bloomberg.net; Brian Latham in Johannesburg at blatham@bloomberg.net

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

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