Robert Mugabe promises elections this year
Zimbabwe president says opponents calling for polls to be delayed for
constitutional reforms are cowards
Associated Press in Harare
Robert Mugabe has said he will definitely call elections this year and
described as “cowards” politicians who say polls cannot be held until 2013.
In an interview with state media before his 88th birthday on Tuesday,
Zimbabwe’s president dismissed objections to early polls. “That is what
cowards say. Elections can happen at any time … Definitely, yes [this
year],” he said.
He told the loyalist Sunday Mail newspaper that money would be found to pay
for the presidential and parliamentary elections.
The prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party has said polling cannot go
ahead until constitutional reforms are complete, and rights groups have
warned of an imminent upsurge of election violence.
Zimbabwe’s power-sharing coalition was formed after disputed and
violence-plagued elections in 2008. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, in power since
independence in 1980, lost the parliamentary race and Tsvangirai boycotted a
presidential run-off in protest at violence and intimidation of his
Mugabe acknowledged in the birthday interview that there were “negative
forces” in his party in 2008 along with factions wanting to see him
defeated. He said he had not groomed a successor.
“There is no one who can stand and win at the moment,” he said. Choosing a
successor would “cause much more division in the party”. At its annual
convention in December, Zanu-PF nominated Mugabe as its sole presidential
candidate in future elections.
Changes to the constitution have been proposed including a limited
presidential term of 10 years and a ban on candidates older than 70. Mugabe
said any new constitution should reflect the people’s views and those
calling for an age limit were afraid of losing the vote to him.
He likened his critics to “barking dogs” and called Tsvangirai’s party
“dishonest” and too reliant on support from the west. “They want us to go
back to a system where there is great reliance on foreign investment,
support and on foreign advisers,” he said. “They are for whites being the
main players. We rely on our views … the good views we have adopted from
socialists in the past.”
As is customary at birthdays, Mugabe referred to his personal life, saying
he cherished his time as a schoolteacher and, later in life, his
determination in politics. “If I believe in something and I am determined, I
don’t go back,” he said. He wanted to be remembered “just for what I am, a
man, lover of my people and a fighter of oppression”.
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