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Zimbabwe President Mugabe proclaims date for constitutional referendum


14:16, February 16, 2013

HARARE, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- President Robert Mugabe on Friday proclaimed March 16 as the date Zimbabweans will go to a referendum to indicate whether or not they accept a draft constitution.

In a proclamation published in the Government Gazette and accompanying a copy of the draft constitution, Mugabe said polling will start at 7:00 a.m. local time and end at 7: p.m..

Indications are that the majority of Zimbabweans will vote in favor of the draft since all the major parties are urging their supporters to accept it.

The three political parties represented in the legislature -- Mugabe's Zanu-PF, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's larger MDC and the smaller MDC whose leadership is under dispute between Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube -- have endorsed the draft.

If it passes the referendum, the draft will replace the current constitution which was crafted in London ahead of the country's independence from Britain in 1980.

Ordinary Zimbabweans have welcomed the generally calm environment within the country as the major parties are pulling in the same direction and there is limited hate talk against each other.

This is in contrast to the 2000 constitutional referendum where Mugabe's party campaigned for a "yes" vote while Tsvangirai's then united MDC and the NCA led the majority of the people to reject it.

According to the power-sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by the now governing parties in 2008 following inconclusive elections the same year, fresh elections must be held after the country makes a new constitution.

The then South African president, Thabo Mbeki, led a Southern African Development Community (SADC) initiative to bring lasting peace to the country which was also grappling with an economic meltdown and an official 231 million percent inflation rate, the highest in the world, and threatening to destabilize the region.

Opposition parties have previously condemned the current constitution which has since been amended 19 times, saying that it gave Mugabe and his party an unfair advantage over them.

Mugabe has since 2011 tried to push for elections outside the constitutional process but the SADC and his political rivals at home have rejected the attempts.

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