Robert Mugabe looks set to rule Zimbabwe until he’s 99 years old

The permanent president.
The permanent president.
Image: AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi
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Zimbabwe’s ruling party has confirmed that president Robert Mugabe will be its candidate for the 2018 presidential election. That means that the 92-year-old Mugabe will run for re-election at 94, and a win would put him in power until age 99. He has been the only leader Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980.

The ruling Zanu-PF held its conference over the weekend, where it voiced “its support to the president and first secretary comrade Robert Mugabe as the sole candidate for the forthcoming 2018 elections.”

The party’s youth league went even further, suggesting that presidential term limits should be abolished, making Mugabe president for life. Under the constitution adopted in 2013, presidents may only serve two terms.

Party officials hope Mugabe’s re-election will unify a Zanu-PF weakened by infighting to succeed the veteran leader. The party has been splintered along factions loyal to deputy president Emmerson Mnangagwa and those who back first lady Grace Mugabe’s presidential ambitions. In July this year, veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation movement deserted Mugabe, calling him dictatorial, manipulative, and egocentric.

After 36 years in power, Mugabe has weathered decades of political storms. This year, however, has been one of the most difficult. Mugabe’s government faced public protests on a scale not seen since 2008, with young people using social media to organize the protests. They are fed up with a failed economy overseen by the only president many of them have ever known.