Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has set out plans for a constitutional referendum in November and elections in March, a timetable that was quickly denounced by the opposition as "unrealistic".
In a High Court filing seen Thursday, Mugabe set out his most concrete timetable to date for two votes that are key to a bipartisan deal designed to stop Zimbabwe descending further into political violence.
Setting out the popular votes to be held in the next six months, Mugabe listed a "referendum, expected to take place during the first week of November."
According to AFP, the document also said Mugabe wanted to "hold the harmonised elections in the last week of March 2013," adding: "A proclamation to this effect will be made at the appropriate time."
The elections could be a major step towards recasting Zimbabwe's troubled political scene, choosing a successor to the shaky power-sharing government formed three years ago between Mugabe and his political nemesis, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
But Tsvangirai's allies at the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) voiced objections to Mugabe's plan.
MDC spokesman, Douglas Mwonzora told AFP "the dates being proposed are clearly not feasible."
"The date for the election, especially, is unilateral, unrealistic and has no scientific or legal basis."
Mwonzora added his party was more concerned about conditions under which the vote takes place rather than the date. "For us to meet those dates, ZANU-PF has to change drastically."
"We want elections to be held in conditions which allow the secrecy of the vote and the security of both the vote and the voter," said Mwonzora.
There may also be electoral reasons for the MDC to seek a delay in the polls.
After 32 years in power, 88-year-old Mugabe has seen his political star rise in recent months, as the rival MDC has been riven with divisions and tainted by corruption scandals.
A recent Afrobarometer poll showed ZANU-PF running neck and neck with the MDC.