President Mugabe to add two years to term

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The Independent Online

President Mugabe is trying to add two more years to his time in office, according to official sources. Senior members of Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party are contemplating extending the President's term by introducing a constitutional amendment to hold presidential and parliamentary elections together in 2010.

The elections on 31 March handed Mugabe 78 seats - enough to change the constitution. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has denounced the elections and launched a legal challenge over alleged vote-rigging.

Officials are quietly considering the issue, which would form part of Zanu-PF's legislative agenda in the new parliament. Given Mr Mugabe's majority, the initiative would be easy to push through, meaning the presidential poll currently scheduled for 2008 would be moved to 2010.

Mr Mugabe has made no secret of his wish to make constitutional changes in the wake of his controversial win and in particular his desire to run the two main elections concurrently. He has also publicly called for a reintroduction of a senate, which critics argue would be used as a dumping ground for the president's cronies. The idea was rejected in a referendum in 2000.

The Zanu-PF secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, said that pursuing the legislative agenda would be facilitated by extending Mr Mugabe's term: "The easiest way of doing it would be to delay the presidential election to 2010. If we hold the parliamentary election early in 2008, that would be costly." Though Zimbabwe's political calendar has long been acknowledged as overcrowded,critics say the real reason Mr Mugabe wants to merge elections is to consolidate executive power.