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Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Calls for Tolerance Ahead of Ballot

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe called for tolerance as the southern African nation heads for elections expected next year.

“Let people vote how they want to vote, and those who don’t want to vote can throw their vote into the sea, it’s their choice,” Mugabe, 88, said today in Harare, the capital, at the funeral of Stanislaus “Stan” Mudenge, minister for higher education and a veteran member of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.

Mugabe said Sept. 27 that he would probably call for a nationwide ballot to be held in March. His party’s coalition partner, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, has said the president can’t call elections without the MDC’s approval. The two parties have ruled in a “unity” government since 2009 under an agreement brokered by the Southern African Development Community after a vote the previous year was marred by widepread violence.

Under the SADC accord, Zimbabwe must hold a national referendum to approve a new constitution before fresh elections can be held. ZANU-PF and two factions of the MDC have failed to agree on a draft constitution.

“Let us treat each other equally and recognize that although we may differ, we are also the same,” Mugabe said. “I am Zanu-PF, Tsvangirai is MDC. These are preferences.”

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