President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, now officially the candidate for the country's ruling party elections due in 2008, has promised loyalists a "resounding" victory, but a senior opposition official said Saturday that "they are in for the shock of their lives."
Speaking late Friday at the end of an extraordinary congress of his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, Mr. Mugabe warned loyalists against complacency but predicted “resounding” victory in elections he insists will be held in March.
"We want a resounding victory which (British Prime Minister Gordon) Brown and (U.S. President George) Bush will take note of," Mr. Mugabe told the party congress.
Thanking ZANU-PF delegates for nominating him as candidate for re-election, he told them“we will win, obviously, but the question is by what margin.” President Mugabe in answer to his own question specified victory “by 100 percent or even 105 percent."
He said keeping power would require “unity of purpose," something at times lacking at the congress where senior party officials publicly wrangled with liberation war veteran leader Jabulani Sibanda over his right to praise Mr. Mugabe from the podium. The president was obliged to intervene, imposing party discipline on Sibanda.
Responding Saturday to Mr. Mugabe's projections, policy coordinator Eddie Cross of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change grouping of MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai, said the electorate will massively reject Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF.
"They are in for the shock of their lives," Cross told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, referring to Mr. Mugabe and his ruling party.
Though the Tsvangirai MDC faction has voiced dissatisfaction with the crisis resolution process launched by the Southern African Development Community and mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, Cross said Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF are too deeply enmeshed in that process to entirely block electoral and democratic reform.
"I think that SADC and Thabo Mbeki are going to deliver real changes in Zimbabwe and I think under those circumstances, ZANU-PF and Robert Mugabe are basically finished politically," Cross said. He said Mr. Mugabe "has been our biggest asset this past year" amid a continuing economic meltdown, and if SADC imposes "reasonable conditions" the opposition has an "overwhelming chance" of winning the elections.