Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has said he expects fresh elections early next year, held under a new constitution, to choose a successor.
"Our major objective remains the holding of the next harmonised elections in March 2013 under a new constitution," Mugabe said on Tuesday in his last address in Parliament before elections, he said should be held in March next year.
He said the new session of Parliament "draws us closer to the end of the inclusive government", saying there had been "some growing mutual collaboration and commendable efforts at togetherness" in the compromise government with long-time rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
The veteran ruler urged Zimbabweans to refrain from violence in the lead-up to new elections. "Let us shun violence in all its manifestations and latent forms, especially as we look forward to our national elections."
Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a power-sharing government three years ago after violent and disputed polls in 2008. Their relations have been characterised by frequent bickering and counter-accusations of violence.
A new draft constitution which is set to go for a referendum forms part of the key reforms to be made before fresh elections.
Last week political parties and civic groups gathered to review the draft constitution which will go for a referendum whose date is yet to be announced.
"As we look ahead, irrespective of our political differences, let us continue to be bound together as Zimbabweans," he said in a Parliament sitting attended by Tsvangirai. "It is time we believe in our capacity to confront our challenges, without the mischievous external hand that always comes to distort the magnitude and nature of our challenges."
Elections in Zimbabwe are often marred by violence. Tsvangirai withdrew from a presidential run-off election in 2008 citing the killing of around 300 supporters. – AFP