Robert Mugabe — who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence nearly 33 years ago — may stay in power for another decade if he is reelected according to a new draft constitution.
The new basic law would limit presidential terms to 10 years and strip away presidential immunity.
But it is not retroactive and so would grant Mugabe — who turns 89 in February — the right to run again in presidential polls.
The draft constitution, which now needs to be voted on by parliament and Zimbabweans, forms the main pillar of reforms needed to hold a new vote after deadly 2008 elections.
“The draft constitution will go to parliament early February and it will go to a referendum,” Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga told media.
Zimbabwe’s unity government of long-ruling Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to the text two weeks ago after disagreements and violence delayed the constitutional process in the last two years.
There was no info on the much-awaited date when Zimbabweans will vote on the draft charter.
“The referendum date is something that is going to be agreed in consultation with the principals (Mugabe and Tsvangirai),” said Matinenga.
Tsvangirai pulled out of a presidential run-off election in 2008, citing the killing of around 300 supporters.
Long-ruling Mugabe and Tsvangirai were then forced into a power-sharing government a year later.
Their relations have been characterised by bickering and counter-accusations of violence.
The draft constitution retains the death penalty although it says “a law may permit the death penalty to be imposed only on a person convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances.”
It prohibits the death penalty for women and people under 21 years and over 70.
In a clear banning of gay or lesbian rights, the draft charter says “persons of the same sex are prohibited from marrying each other.”
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party has said it will support the draft charter.
Mugabe has insisted on new presidential elections in March, while Tsvangirai wants reforms first to allow for fair and violence-free polls.