Zimbabwe: Mugabe to seek re-election

Harare – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on Thursday he would stand for re-election if his party nominated him, brushing off calls for the octogenarian to make way for a younger successor after 30 years in power.

Mugabe, 86, who has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980, formed a unity administration a year ago with rival Morgan Tsvangirai, now Prime Minister, to end a long political crisis after a disputed election.

The power-sharing government was initially expected to run for two years to 2011, but analysts say mutual suspicion and strategic considerations are delaying democratic reforms which would clear the way for a free and fair poll.

Asked whether he would stand again for a national election, Mugabe, who will be nearly 90 at the end of his current five-year term in 2013 said: “Go ask Zanu-PF.”

“I am a Zanu-PF son. If Zanu-PF says, ‘go for it’, I will,” he said at a rare media briefing with local and foreign media.

Mugabe said the timing of a new election would depend on how soon the parties agreed on a new constitution.

“As to when this will be, it’s a matter of time,” he said.

The veteran leader, who charges that he is a victim of demonisation by a hostile Western media, was in a jovial mood, cracking jokes as he defended his flagship policies, from the controversial seizure of white-owned farms to his latest plans to transfer control of foreign-owned firms to blacks.

In what has become a standard line of defence, Mugabe again blamed sanctions imposed on his party by Western powers for ruining Zimbabwe’s once prosperous economy, saying Zanu-PF had been targeted for its land reform policy.

“Everything else they are saying are just excuses. We are not the biggest violators of human rights in the world,” he said, adding he was hoping the unity government would soon be able to campaign together to get the travel and financial sanctions lifted.

But Mugabe expressed doubts that Britain’s Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, would immediately lift sanctions on Zimbabwe if it wins elections expected in May.

“I don’t think so… although he (Cameron) stands a better chance because we have had more constructive relations with the Conservatives,” he said.

Mugabe said Labour leaders were foolish to ignore Britain’s historical relations with Zimbabwe and to drag US President Barack Obama’s administration into its problems with Harare.

“We are sorry that he got taken into this,” he said of Obama’s decision this week to extend US sanctions against Zimbabwe for another year.

Source: news24 online, 20100305

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