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Zimbabwe Ruling Party Conference To Mull Extended Mugabe Term

National and local leaders of Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party are converging on the town of Goromonzi, 40 kilometers east of Harare, for an annual convention where the agenda could include a two-year term extension for President Robert Mugabe.

The ZANU-PF conference was to begin Thursday in Goromonzi's high school.

Six out of 10 of ZANU-PF's provincial committees have called for the presidential election slated for 2008 to be put off until 2010, ostensibly so that it can be held at the same time as parliamentary elections. But critics say this so-called "harmonization" of election schedules is just a ploy to keep Mr. Mugabe in office two years longer and thereby postpone what is certain to be a divisive internal succession debate.

William Nhara, ZANU-PF information secretary for Harare province, said the agenda will be set by more than 4,000 delegates from around the country.

Nhara, also principal director of public and interactive affairs in the office of President Mugabe, dismissed speculation that the so-called “harmonisation” of presidential and parliamentary elections will top the agenda.

But the political opposition and civic groups are concerned at the move in ZANU-PF to postpone the presidential election, leaving Mr. Mugabe in power until 2010.

Government critic John Makumbe, a University of Zimbabwe senior lecturer, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the ruling party is using the term “harmonization” to suggest there is some conflict between the dates of the two elections, when there is no compelling need to hold them at the same time. He was joined by commentator Chido Makunike, now based in Dakar, Senegal.

More reports from VOA'S Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...