Zimbabwean Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has triggered new tension in the Harare government of national unity by declaring that President Robert Mugabe may be obliged to dissolve Parliament in order to bring about new elections next year.
Chinamasa, a member of Mr Mugabe's former ruling ZANU-PF party, told Reuters that the Movement for Democratic Change formation headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is stalling reform in a bid to fend off elections.
But he said once the process of constitutional revision is completed - the document is drafted now and will go to a national referendum - the next step will be elections.
ZANU-PF sources said hardliners in the party have made it clear that no further reforms will be made except for the new constitution. Both formations of the MDC, the other led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, say there has been far too little progress on electoral, media and other reforms to consider elections any time soon.
Tsvangirai MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti insisted this past weekend that his party would not take part in new elections without major reforms including a new voters roll and reform of the national security sector to prevent interference in the process.
Chinamasa said ZANU-PF would not be held hostage by its political rivals.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said that under a scenario circulating in ZANU-PF circles, Finance Minister Biti would be ordered to fund the unbudgeted elections.
Deputy Justice Minister Obert Gutu of the Tsvangirai MDC formation said Chinamasa is misleading himself. Political analyst Joy Mabenge said ZANU-PF knows Mr. Mugabe, 87 and in deteriorating health, has limited time left to campaign effectively.