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Mugabe's Party Defers Endorsing His Bid for Two Extra Years in Power

President Robert Mugabe has failed to get his quarreling ZANU-PF party to formally adopt a resolution on extending his term in office. Delegates to a party conference referred the matter to the party central committee for further discussion. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA from Johannesburg on the significance of that decision.

For the first time in the ruling ZANU-PF's history, its annual conference did not pass any resolutions, including the one Mr. Mugabe wanted, to stay in power, without an election, two years after his term of office ends in March 2008.

Mr. Mugabe asked that delegates agree to postpone presidential elections to 2010, so that they would coincide with parliamentary elections.

The 3,000 delegates to the party's annual conference were united that they wanted all national elections, including the presidential poll, to be held simultaneously to save money.

They were not united, however, on whether such a change should automatically allow Mr. Mugabe to stay on in office, without an election, two years past his current term.

ZANU-PF chairman John Nkomo referred the matter "for further discussion" to the 10 provinces.

Nkomo said resolutions would be adopted later by the central committee, after the provinces had sufficiently debated the issues raised at the annual conference.

The ZANU-PF central committee is the party's highest authority in the time between its congresses, which are held every five years. The proposal would also have to be approved by Parliament, which is dominated by ZANU-PF.

Independent legislator, Jonathan Moyo, who resigned last year as Mr. Mugabe's information minister, said ZANU-PF is seriously divided. He said never before had ZANU-PF failed to pass resolutions before it closed its annual conference.

He said the central committee and the politburo were also divided about whether Mr. Mugabe should stay in power for two extra years without an election. Mr. Mugabe has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980.

Zimbabwe's economy is in an ever deepening crisis. Economists and political analysts have all said that Zimbabwe needs to return to the international community, but that is unlikely because Mr. Mugabe faces increasing isolation in the international arena.