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Zimbabwe Opposition Flummoxed By Mugabe Term-Extension Gambit


The proposal by Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party to postpone a presidential election due in 2008 for two years, extending President Robert Mugabe's term, has generated anger among opposition politicians who seem uncertain exactly how to respond.

The ZANU-PF leadership at its annual conference this weekend passed a resolution for the "harmonization" of presidential and general elections by postponing the 2008 presidential election until 2010 when the next parliamentary voting takes place. The "harmonization" is seen outside ZANU-PF as a term extension in all but name.

The date of Mr. Mugabe's retirement has been a recurring subject of speculation in recent years. But until ZANU-PF party chiefs floated the "harmonization" plan a few weeks ago many took him at his word that he would step down in 2008. The rapid evolution of the initiative has both appalled and flummoxed the opposition.

With its two-thirds majority in parliament ZANU-PF can push through amendments to the constitution - it did so last year to nationalize all farm land in the country and strip dispossessed white farmers of the right to challenge farm takeovers in the courts.

So the opposition Movement for Democratic Change - divided into two factions since October 2005 - could find itself sidelined as the ruling party rams through yet another amendment that sinks MDC hopes for a democratic transition within two years.

A spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change faction of founding president Morgan Tsvangirai said the grouping was still weighing how it should respond.

Priscilla Misihairimbwi-Mushonga, legislator for Glen Norah, Harare, and deputy secretary general of the MDC faction headed by Arthur Mutambara, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, that her formation is already looking for ways to block implementation of the "harmonization" resolution.

Smaller opposition parties have also expressed dismay at the ZANU-PF proposal.

ZAPU leader Paul Siwela said his members are dissapointed but do not think there is much they can do to block the ruling party's extension of Mr. Mugabe's term.

ZANU-Ndonga head Wilson Kumbula said his grouping will consider uniting with civil society groups and other opposition forces to fight the term-extension maneuver.

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

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