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Zimbabwe's Ruling Party Endorses President Mugabe as Candidate for Next Election


Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF has once again endorsed President Robert Mugabe as its presidential candidate. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA the party met in an extraordinary congress in Harare.

There was little festivity among the approximately 10,000 ZANU-PF delegates, due to power cuts during proceedings. Zimbabwe, which has been suffering from hyperinflation, can no longer keep up repair of electrical installations, because it has no foreign currency to import spare parts.

Now 83, President Mugabe believes he can reverse the decline and continue his present policies. He blames the West for Zimbabwe's problems.

Zimbabwe's economy is such massive disarray, say analysts, it will take decades to repair what was once one of Africa's richest nations.

At the ZANU-PF congress in 2004, President Mugabe was re-elected party president, automatically making him the candidate in the 2008 presidential elections.

But during last year's annual party conference, there was immediate and large-scale opposition to President Mugabe's effort to change Zimbabwe's constitution to allow him to extend his term of office by two years. Analysts say this special congress is a reaction to that defeat.

This is the first time ZANU-PF has held an extraordinary congress to acclaim a candidate, but party chairman John Nkomo says it is business as usual.

"The procedure is that we can convene a special congress, or extraordinary congress, to confirm the candidacy of our president of the party," he said.

President Mugabe's supporters are suggesting that he should become party president for life.

ZANU-PF is a divided quarreling party and analysts say that President Mugabe has always ensured there was no clear successor for his position. There are several contenders for the leadership of the party.

Thursday, Britain's Daily Telegraph published a rare and frank interview with a powerful ZANU-PF member, Ibbo Mandaza, who is no longer loyal to President Mugabe. Mandaza said, "99 percent of the country wants Mugabe to retire peacefully and enable Zimbabwe to move into a new era." He said ZANU-PF has been reduced to the figurehead of one person and very far from what it stood for originally."

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