President Robert Mugabe sought to extend his rule for another four years yesterday when his regime announced that Zimbabwe's next presidential election will be postponed.
Mr Mugabe's present term of office ends in 2008. But the 82-year-old leader, who won a violent and widely condemned presidential election four years ago, is about to rewrite the constitution and give himself the option of staying in power beyond this limit.
The next presidential poll will be delayed until 2010, on the pretext that parliamentary elections are also due in that year and the two contests should be harmonised.
Nathan Shamuyarira, the official spokesman for the ruling Zanu-PF party and a former cabinet minister, disclosed the plan to the Sunday News, a government paper.
"We want to combine the two, the presidential and parliamentary elections, so that we do not have elections every two years," he said.
A Bill will be presented before parliament to bring this into effect, added Mr Shamuyarira. To change the electoral calendar would require changing the constitution but the ruling party, with a technical two thirds majority in parliament, can pass such amendments easily.
After 26 years of absolute power, Mr Mugabe is already the oldest leader in Africa. If he retired in 2010, he would be 86 and would have been in office for 30 years. Mugabe's previous hints that he might go in 2008 were ambiguous and analysts say the veteran Zimbabwean leader has been keeping his options open.
His bitterly divided opponents, who have failed to make a stand against his regime, united to condemn his plan to stay in power.////