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Mugabe Agrees on Constitution Needed for Zimbabwe Vote

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai agreed on a new constitution, paving the way for elections needed to end a four-year impasse.

“This concludes a long journey that we have travelled,” Tsvangirai told reporters yesterday in the capital, Harare, at an event also attended by Mugabe.

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.

Negotiations over the constitution stalled over issues including dual citizenship, reform of the security forces and land rights. The impasse has hampered Zimbabwe’s economic recovery from a decade-long recession.

“The true test lies in the implementation of the constitution,” Tsvangirai said. “We must uphold the provisions of this constitution even if the outcome does not favor those who hold the reins of power.”

Alois Masepe, an independent political analyst in Harare, said it’s too early to assess the impact of the agreement.

Platinum Reserves

“Who has compromised and on what issues?,” Masepe said in a phone interview yesterday. “We need to know what’s been agreed in order to understand what it means.”

Zimbabwe 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. and Anglo American Platinum Ltd. operate platinum mines in the country while Rio Tinto Plc runs a diamond mine. Units of Barclays Plc and Standard Chartered Plc operate in the country.

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, mainly against Tsvangirai’s supporters, and electoral irregularities.

At his party’s annual conference on Dec. 7, Mugabe threatened to dissolve parliament and call an election without holding a referendum.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai “would want to push for an election,” Lovemore Madhuku, a law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said in a phone interview from Harare yesterday. “This is a power game and very soon they would be pushing for a referendum.”

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