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Mugabe Proposes Succession Debate at December Party Conference

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has said the ruling party's membership will be allowed to weigh in his succession during the ZANU-PF annual conference scheduled for December in Goromonzi, a town about 40 kilometers east of Harare. But critics expressed doubt that Mugabe intended to resolve the matter as soon as that.

National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku, a prominent figure in the opposition, said ZANU-PF's annual conference does not have the power to select new leaders. Madhuku said that if President Mugabe were sincere about selecting his successor he would convene an extraordinary congress empowered to do so.

Madhuku added that if the issue is discussed at the conference, ZANU-PF youth and the war veteran wing would be likely to force nomination of Mugabe by acclamation.

Most observers consider Vice President Joyce Mujuru to be the strongest candidate to succeed Mr. Mugabe, who in late 2004 pushed through her nomination to the second slot and purged a number of senior party officials who opposed the appointment.

Acting Chairman Simon Badza of the University of Zimbabwe political science faculty told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the president is on the correct track in proposing to take up the issue at the annual conference.

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