Zimbabwe election body seeks $220 mln for polls

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s electoral commission needs $220 million to stage a referendum on a proposed new constitution and a general election, both of which are expected next year, state media reported on Wednesday.

President Robert Mugabe was forced to share power with his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, after disputed 2008 polls and the two have been haggling over democratic reforms and the timing of a fresh vote.

However, both have recently said an election could be held in 2012 to end a fragile coalition government. The southern African country is currently drafting a new constitution — seen as key before any poll — to be tabled for a referendum next year.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission deputy chairwoman Joyce Kazembe told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that $104 million was needed for the referendum and $115 million for the election.

“As long as we get the money, we are ready to roll,” she said.

Funding for the election would take up about 6.5 percent of the proposed $3.4 billion budget for 2012.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti is forecasting a slowdown in economic growth from 9.3 percent this year to between 7.8 percent and 9 percent in 2012.

Biti said funding for elections would exert pressure on government finances, while “corrosive politics” in an expected 2012 election season would affect the economy.

The coalition has presided over the recovery of an economy which shrank by as much as 50 percent between 2000 and 2008. Inflation has dropped to single digits from a peak of 500 billion percent in December 2008.

© Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved

Article source: http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE79I09F20111019?feedType=RSS&feedName;=topNews

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