December 23, 2005

Constitutional amendments planned

Zimbabwe's ruling party will amend the constitution in 2006 to cancel presidential elections in 2008 and extend President Robert Mugabe's tenure until 2010, as was revealed by ruling party and government sources. Even if the 82-year-old Mugabe opts to retire before 2010, the envisaged constitutional amendments would give him a free rein to anoint a successor who would not have to face an immediate presidential poll. President Mugabe's term expires in 2008, but, using his two-thirds majority in both parliament and the recently established upper house, the Senate, the ruling Zanu PF party aims to defer the presidential election so that it can run concurrently with parliamentary elections in 2010. That would also give his handpicked successor, Vice-President Joyce Mujuru, a head-start before she faces presidential elections in 2010, if Mugabe opts to go early. Party insiders said Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa was crafting the envisaged constitutional amendments after the ruling party's supreme body recently agreed on the plan to extend Mugabe's tenure. Under Zimbabwe's constitution, a presidential election must be called within 90 days of an incumbent's departure. But the amendments agreed by the supreme body would do away with that requirement and allow for parliament to elect a president to rule until 2010 in the event that Mugabe opts not to continue, the sources said. National Constitutional Assembly chairperson Lovemore Madhuku condemned Mugabe's approach to constitutional reform. "Nothing else better illustrates his abuse of power than the way he continues to tamper with the constitution for purely narrow-minded and very selfish ends," Madhuku claimed. (The Star, South Africa)

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