Mar 16 - Zimbabwe's leaders vote on a constitution that would cut the president's power and pave the way for an election to decide whether Robert Mugabe stays in power. Sunita Rappai reports.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe casts his vote in a referendum on a new constitution which is set to clip his presidential powers. The new charter sets a maximum two five-years terms for the president starting with the next election expected later this year. Presidential decrees will also require majority backing in the cabinet while major declarations like emergency rule need the approval of two thirds of lawmakers. With both Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and the rival Movement for Democratic Change backing it, Saturday's vote is almost a rubber stamp exercise for the new charter. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT ROBERT MUGABE, SAYING: " We want peace in the country. Peace, peace, peace, but begin with Robert Mugabe." Former opposition chief and Zimbabwe's prime minister in the power sharing government, Morgan Tsvangirai demanded a vote on the new constitution before going to election. He says it will provide the right checks and balances in a country Mugabe has ruled since independence from the British in 1980. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ZIMBABWE PRIME MINISTER MORGAN TSVANGIRAI, SAYING: "This is a new political dispensation. And I hope it is setting a new political culture: from the culture of impunity to the culture of constitutionalism." Unlike previous elections since 2000, the run-up to the referendum was peaceful and voters waited patiently at polling stations. Results are expected within five days.