African Union commission chief says up to Zimbabwe to sort out election row

GENEVA Mon Jun 17, 2013 5:04pm BST

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe signs Zimbabwe's new constitution into law in the capital Harare, replacing a 33-year-old document forged in the dying days of British colonial rule and paving the way for elections later this year, May 22, 2013. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe signs Zimbabwe's new constitution into law in the capital Harare, replacing a 33-year-old document forged in the dying days of British colonial rule and paving the way for elections later this year, May 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

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GENEVA (Reuters) - Zimbabweans themselves must resolve a row over President Robert Mugabe's decision to call an election on July 31, the head of the African Union commission said on Monday.

Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court ordered Mugabe two weeks ago to hold the poll by the end of July, but Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has rejected his rival's declaration, saying it was too early and accusing him of creating a political crisis.

On Saturday, Southern African leaders meeting at a summit in Mozambique told Zimbabwe to ask its courts to extend the deadline.

But African Union Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, speaking at a press conference in Geneva, questioned whether it was right to second-guess Zimbabwe's courts.

"The courts have said the elections must take place. And so do we listen to the courts? Or do we not listen to the courts? I thought a lot of you have always been talking to us about the rule of law and respect for the judiciary," she said.

"So I don't know. The Zimbabweans must sort it out, whether they listen to the judiciary and go with what the judiciary has said, or whether they ignore it."

Mugabe used a presidential decree to bypass parliament to fast-track changes to election laws and declare the voting date. His justice minister has denied any need for the media or security reforms that Tsvangirai's party says must be enacted before an election takes place.

The AU plans to send observers to monitor the election, Dlamini-Zuma said, adding that the most important question was whether the voting was free and fair.

Zimbabwe successfully held a referendum on its constitution and she said she hoped that the election would be similarly peaceful.

"And of course their economy is also picking up, which is good, so we wish them the best, and if the elections go well I think it will augur well for Zimbabwe," she added.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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