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Zimbabwe constitutional court orders elections by end of July

Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court on Friday imposed a July 31 election deadline and ordered President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to announce a date soon. The ruling came in response to a case filed by a citizen in an attempt to get Mugabe to announce election dates. Rights activist Jealousy Mawarire had originally sought elections by June 29. Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said that would be impossible but that Mugabe had violated [Reuters report] Mawarire's rights but not announcing an election date.

The order comes just one week after Mugabe signed [JURIST report] the country's new constitution [text] into law. Mugabe, 89, has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence from the UK in 1980. After the country's disputed elections in 2008, Mugabe and his political rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] formed a coalition government and found a compromise to hold elections on the condition that a new constitution was enacted beforehand. Zimbabwe has been criticized for the state of its legislative and electoral environment. In a report [text, PDF] issued by Human Rights Watch [advocacy website], the organization said that the country must take adequate steps to ensure "credible, free and fair elections" in 2013.

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