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.