PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s participation in the next presidential election was thrown into doubt last night after his Zanu PF party admitted elections may not be held until 2013.
Mugabe, whose health is reportedly failing, would be approaching his 90th birthday in 2013.
Patrick Chinamasa, Zanu PF’s chief negotiator in power sharing talks with the two MDC factions in the coalition government, said the party had agreed to a raft of measures to clear the path to free and fair elections.
But Chinamasa, whose party had been pressing for elections this year, said some of the conditions may not be met until 2013 at the earliest.
"It is my own opinion that it is not possible to hold elections this year. We need to start talking about elections next year or 2013, assuming that the [constitution] referendum is completed in September as we have been advised by COPAC [Constitutional Parliamentary Committee],” Chinamasa told the state-run Herald newspaper.
Chinamasa said Zanu PF negotiators and those from the two MDC factions led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube had agreed an “election roadmap to identify sign posts to be traversed ahead of elections in Zimbabwe” – including media reforms, amendments to the Electoral Act and the lifting of Western sanctions on Zimbabwe.
"The election roadmap identifies activities to be undertaken before elections, taking into account activities, some of which to be taken sequentially and others concurrently,” said Chinamasa, also the Justice Minister.
Earlier on Thursday, Tsvangirai told a meeting of his party’s women’s assembly in Bulawayo where a three-day congress was underway, that he expected elections to be held in 2012.
"In 12 months' time we have an election in this country. Let it be free and let it be peaceful," said Tsvangirai said.
Chinamasa’s suggestions that elections could be held as late as 2013 will be seen as the clearest indication that Mugabe, 87, will not be Zanu PF’s candidate.
With constant reports of the veteran leader’s failing health, the two-year delay to elections could allow Zanu PF to manage its internal succession politics, an analyst said last night.
“Zanu PF has been clamorous in its demands for an election this year. This new stance may very well be a statement that the news from Mugabe’s doctors is not very good,” said the analyst.
Mugabe formed a coalition government with opposition rivals following disputed and violence-hit elections in 2008.