Zimbabwe's MDC and Zanu-PF in election timeline deal

Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai shake hands (archive photo) President Mugabe (l) and Morgan Tsvangirai have been in a fractious coalition since 2009

Zimbabwe's coalition partners have agreed to a timeline for reforms to pave the way for fresh elections.

It includes a deal to reform electoral laws within 45 days, Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper reports.

The agreement is aimed at ensuring free and fair polls, but no deal has been reached on security reforms, it says.

The 2008 poll was marred by widespread violence, which ended after President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai formed a unity government.

"We signed the election road map," said Energy Minister Elton Magnoma, a representative of Prime Minister Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) at the talks with Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

"We agreed on what needs to be done before elections can take place," he said.

'Regime change'

Meanwhile, Mr Tsvangirai and Vice-President Joyce Mujuru of Zanu-PF have appeared together in the capital, Harare, to launch an economic recovery plan.

About 80% of Zimbabwe's work force is unemployed, and the plan focuses on job creation in the tourism and manufacturing sectors.

Mr Tsvangirai said the power-sharing government had been racked by discord and had become dysfunctional in the past six months.

"Why don't we go back to a situation where we believed in ourselves, where we united the country, where there was political stability and policy predictability?" he said.

Mr Mugabe had insisted on polls this year, but Mr Tsvangirai argued for a 2012 election so that there was enough time to ensure they would be free and fair.

An opposition supporter with bandages (archive shot) Opposition members were brutally attacked during the 2008 poll

The agreement suggests they are likely to take place next year, the AFP news agency reports.

Once a new electoral law is adopted, voter education will take place in the next 30 days, followed by preparations for a voters roll in 60 days.

Electoral watchdogs say Zimbabwe's voters roll is stuffed with ghost voters, including young children and voters over the age of 100.

The Herald reports that the two sides have still failed to agree on the composition of the electoral commission and on security reforms - key demands of Mr Tsvangirai who accuses the commission and the military of backing Zanu-PF.

Many of Zimbabwe's security chiefs fought with Mr Mugabe during the 1970s guerrilla war against white minority rule and remain fiercely loyal to him.

The army was said to have been involved in systematic attacks on Mr Tsvangirai's supporters after he won the first round of the 2008 election.

Mr Tsvangirai boycotted a run-off vote, claiming it was rigged in Mr Mugabe's favour.

Last month, a top army officer, Brig-Gen Douglas Nyikayaramba, denounced Mr Tsvangirai as a security threat who wanted "illegal regime change" in Zimbabwe.

Mr Tsvangirai urged military chiefs to remove their uniforms if they wanted to challenge him politically in the forthcoming polls.

Human rights activists fear an escalation of violence as the two sides gear up for fresh elections.

The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) has been mediating, urging Zanu-PF and the MDC not to plunge Zimbabwe into conflict again.

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