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Mugabe Uses 88th Birthday Bash To Announce Elections

Robert Mugabe has opened his birthday extravaganza by announcing elections in a country wracked by unemployment.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 2/20/2012, 5:56 AM

Impoverished Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has decided to mark his 88th birthday with a $1 million birthday bash and an announcement that he will call elections this year, although the current coalition was scheduled to continue into 2013.

Mugabe dismissed politicians who claim that he had to adhere to the African brokered coalition agreement with the Movement for Democratic Change and thus maintain the rickety coalition, as cowards. "Elections can happen at any time."

Mugabe faces problems this year due to his health that will prevent him from being the focal point of the campaign (that is combined with legislative elections) and he will have to rely on surrogates.

Additionally, Mugabe's own ZANU-PF party is showing signs of fragmenting. Three members of the party were behind a clause to the draft constitution stating: "A person is disqualified for election as president if he or she has already held office for one or more periods, whether continuous or not, amounting to 10 years". Mugabe has been in power since the country (formerly Southern Rhodesia) received its independence back in 1980 and would therefore be disqualified under this clause. Mugabe's supporters now want the traitorous party members expelled.

The draft constitution also includes a prohibition on candidates older than 70 years of age that would again disqualify the 88-year-old Mugabe. Mugabe denigrated the clause as the work of people who were afraid to run against him in a fair fight. In any case, the Constitution would require Mugabe's signature in order to become law. That will not be forthcoming.

Mugabe admitted that he had considered retirement, but had ruled out the idea for patriotic reasons: "Sometimes the call (to retire) comes. It would be wrong, completely wrong when the West is still holding sanctions against us and pursuing regime change." The autocrat is convinced that only he can lead his party to victory and a successor will not secure the support of all wings of the party.

In a country with 95% unemployment, whose citizens cross the border into Mozambique and South Africa in search of work, and where most of the urban population subsists on remittances from abroad, Robert Mugabe will not be denied his lavish birthday party. It will feature a giant birthday cake, banquets, music performances and even a soccer tournament.