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President Mugabe of Zimbabwe Signals Flexibility on Timing of Next Elections

President Mugabe and his former ruling ZANU-PF party had earlier insisted that presidential and general elections be held by next June

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has signaled that there is room for discussion of just when the next round of national elections should be held, in contrast with his earlier insistence - and that of his ZANU-PF party in conference just last weekend - that the national unity government should fold and elections be held by mid-2011.

Analysts parsing his comments in a joint news conference Monday with his fellow unity government heads - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, respectively of the greater and lesser formations of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change - detected a surprisingly concilliatory note.

The president has not actually reversed himself, but suggested he would entertain some consultation within the "inclusive" government on when to proceed to a ballot.

Though stating that the 2008 Global Political Agreement underpinning power shareing is “not a permanent establishment,” President Mugabe observed that "it is envisaged in the GPA that there will be a process towards elections.The parties have different opinions and these opinions will be discussed."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in a year-end statement as president of the larger MDC formation, said his party is “ready for an election and not a war,” and that his MDC would not join a “blood-soaked event masquerading as an election.”

Mr. Tsvangirai also reiterated his call for a vote on the presidency alone, leaving the current Parliament in place as the 2008 general election results were undisputed.

The prime minister called for a clear road map to new elections, with benchmarks for reforms and milestones on a timeline for progress, with the Southern African Development Community and the African Union guaranteeing the process.

Political analyst Hopewell Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Mr. Mugabe’s seeming shift in position looks more like a tactical move.