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Zimbabwe president's party rejects new draft

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's party won't accept a new draft constitution without amendments to reforms seen as undermining its traditional powers, state media reported Tuesday.

Spokesman Rugare Gumbo said the draft was unacceptable in its present form and "we cannot commit ourselves to positions which are untenable,' according to The Herald newspaper, which is controlled by Mugabe loyalists.

He alleged the draft did not reflect the views of many voters and his party supporters who were canvassed countrywide and said it contained "alien ideas" that were not aired at public meetings during an outreach campaign to gather the people's contributions, the paper reported.

The ZANU-PF politburo, the party's top policy making body, is scheduled to meet Wednesday to finalize objections to the draft that include the proposed election of ten provincial governors from all parties. Mugabe appointed the governors in the past. The draft also calls for an independent prosecuting authority to replace Mugabe appointees in the justice ministry and parliamentary controls over military and security deployment.

Mugabe has vowed to call elections next year without a rewritten constitution if no agreement is reached on the 150-page draft.

Under Zimbabwe's power-sharing coalition brokered by regional leaders, the proposed constitution must be put to a referendum before fresh elections can be held. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, has urged his party to support the draft with a "yes" vote in a referendum planned before the end of this year.

His party has expressed fears that if the reforms are abandoned there could be a repeat of the violent and disputed elections in 2008 that led to the formation of the shaky coalition in 2009. It has accused Mugabe loyalists of trying to sabotage negotiations on the new draft that ZANU-PF representatives took part in creating over three years of delays and bickering.

Veritas, an independent constitutional and legal think tank in Harare, said Tuesday the former opposition in the coalition with Mugabe insisted the draft was the result of "hard negotiation" between top representatives mandated by their party leaders to reach consensus on the draft by the time it was finally completed last month.

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change and a smaller former opposition party were adamant negotiations were now closed and no new concessions to ZANU-PF could be entertained, Veritas said.

But Gumbo, the Mugabe party spokesman, said he was confident disputed passages can be recast "to improve the draft," add public views and save the lengthy constitutional process from collapse.

"They want us to agree to something that is unacceptable. We are talking about a constitution for generations to come. We are sticking to what the people have said and you will see the difference" in the party' final amendments, the Herald quoted Gumbo saying.