Zimbabwean parliament Speaker John Nkomo has come out publicly as a candidate for president when the term of incumbent Robert Mugabe ends in 2008 – assuming the ruling party does not alter the constitution to extend Mr. Mugabe's mandate.
Nkomo told reporters in Bulawayo late last week that he had a legitimate claim to the highest office in the land. He noted that he had “risen through the ranks from branch level to the chairmanship" of the ruling ZANU-PF party which Mr. Mugabe heads.
The 70-year-old Nkomo would not be drawn on when the next presidential election will be held. Some top ZANU-PF officials want to amend the constitution to push back the ballot to 2010 so that parliamentary elections can be held at the same time.
Moving up general elections to coincide with the presidential election would achieve the same result of harmonizing the two ballots, but this does not seem to have been considered by the ruling party. Critics say the motivation is not to harmonize elections but to extend Mr. Mugabe’s term, and that this will only deepen the national crisis.
Executive Director Farai Maguwu of the Civic Alliance for Democracy and Governance told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that while Nkomo is entering the race early, his close ties to Mugabe will undermine his candidacy.