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Zim opposition vows to resist election delay

Zimbabwe’s opposition vowed on Wednesday to resist any plan by President Robert Mugabe’s party to delay a 2008 presidential poll, saying the Southern African country would be doomed by two more years under his rule.

The ruling Zanu-PF said on Sunday it was considering shifting the presidential election so it can be held simultaneously with parliamentary polls in 2010, a move that could stretch Mugabe’s rule to 30 years.

”We are in a desperate situation as it is, and the country cannot afford that, both politically or economically,” said Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Mugabe had previously suggested he will retire in 2008, but has not been categorical about the decision. Analysts have interpreted this as a sign that one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders is keeping his options open.

The MDC and other critics accuse Mugabe (82), in power since independence from Britain in 1980, of driving one of Africa’s most promising economies into the ground through controversial policies and of rigging polls to stay in office.

The MDC has accused Mugabe’s government of robbing it of victory in three major elections in the last six years. It says Mugabe’s government has become more repressive in the face of an economic meltdown.

Mugabe denies the charges and dismisses the MDC as a puppet of Western powers he accuses of seeking to topple his rule over his controversial seizures of white-owned commercial farms for distribution to landless blacks.

Zimbabwe is struggling with chronic shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency and the world’s highest inflation rate at over 1 200%.

Extending ‘dictatorship’

On Sunday ZANU-PF spokesperson Nathan Shamuyarira said the party wanted to consolidate the country’s electoral calendar by delaying the 2008 poll, a plan the opposition condemned on Wednesday as extending a ”dictatorship”.

Chamisa said although Mugabe’s Zanu-PF commanded the required majority in Parliament to easily pass the constitutional amendment needed to delay the presidential poll, the MDC would fight the proposal outside the legislature.

”We are going to mobilise our structures around the country to resist these plans,” Chamisa said.

The MDC has already threatened to mobilise mass action against Mugabe, but the first serious such bid was crushed two weeks ago when police broke up a workers’ march for better pay, seizing strike leaders who later said they were tortured in detention.

Zimbabwe’s usually vocal human rights lobby has yet to comment on the likelihood of a delayed presidential poll, probably reflecting fear after the police crackdown that has since been applauded by Mugabe.

”The people want this dictatorship to go now, and are looking for salvation not further subjugation from Mugabe or anyone else from Zanu-PF,” the MDC’s Chamisa said.

”We condemn this political arrogance, because instead of heeding the national cry to ‘please go and free us’, these people are trying to entrench themselves,” he added.

Chamisa charged that Zanu-PF was trying to avoid elections because divisions and leadership squabbles in its ranks had undermined its capacity to rig another major election. — Reuters

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