Page last updated at 09:45 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 10:45 UK

Mugabe swears in Zimbabwe rights and electoral bodies

President Robert Mugabe (file photo)
President Robert Mugabe disagrees with his prime minister on many issues

Zimbabwe's first human rights and electoral commissions have been sworn in by President Robert Mugabe.

The creation of the two commissions is seen as crucial in moving the country towards free and fair elections.

The Human Rights Commission will be headed by a law professor and the Electoral Commission by a former judge.

This is a step towards implementing the power-sharing agreement between Mr Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, but others issues remain.

The Human Rights Commission will be chaired by Reginald Austin, a law professor and former head of the legal affairs division of the Commonwealth.

The head of the Electoral Commission will be former Zimbabwean Supreme Court judge, Simpson Mutambanengwe, who was serving as acting chief justice in the Namibian Supreme Court.

Deep divisions

Analysts say the two commissions seem to be politically balanced between Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the MDC of Mr Tsvangirai, his long-time rival.

They disputed the outcome of elections in 2008, with Mr Tsvangirai accusing the security forces of leading a campaign of terror against his supporters.

New elections could be held as early as next year.

"The commission will go a long way in creating conditions for free and fair elections in our country," said Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, who heads an MDC splinter-group.

The president and prime minister formed a unity government in February 2009, but they remain deeply divided.

The MDC wants more of its members to be appointed as provincial governors.

It also demands that terror charges against its treasurer Roy Bennet are dropped, so he can be appointed deputy minister of agriculture.

The MDC further wants Mr Mugabe to revoke the unilateral appointment of two of his allies as attorney general and head of the Central Bank.

On Zanu-PF's side, Mr Mugabe insists that the MDC does more to ensure that western sanctions targeted at himself and members of his party are lifted.

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