Zimbabwe will hold elections in four to five months, a newspaper quoted President Emmerson Mnangagwa as saying, the first time since independence the southern African state will conduct a vote without former ruler Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa, who took over after Mugabe was forced to resign in November following a de facto military coup, was speaking during an official trip to Mozambique, the official Herald newspaper reported.
The international community will closely watch the vote, seen as a litmus test of Mnangagwa’s democratic credentials and key to unlocking badly needed financial assistance and repairing relations with Western powers and international financial institutions.
“Zimbabwe is going for elections in four to five months’ time and we have to preach peace, peace and peace because we know it is good for us and we have no doubt we will have peaceful elections,” Mnangagwa was quoted as saying.
“We will ensure Zimbabwe delivers free, credible, fair and indisputable elections to ensure Zimbabwe engages the world as a qualified democratic state.”
Under the constitution, Zimbabwe should hold elections between July 22 and August 22 but parliament can elect to dissolve itself, triggering an early vote. The ruling ZANU-PF holds a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Since 2000, elections in Zimbabwe have been marred by political violence and disputes, which led to the country becoming an international pariah under Mugabe’s rule.
The next vote will pit Mnangagwa against the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, whose leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, is suffering cancer, a development weakening and dividing his party.