While Mugabe is known for political grandstanding, the admission that elections may not be possible this year is a significant climb-down.
‘If we fail, then elections should be held during the first few months next year,” Mugabe said recently.
There is consensus that Zimbabwe cannot hold free and fair elections before major reforms are implemented.
Mugabe is also under severe pressure from his regional peers who are eager to see a peaceful resolution to one of southern Africa’s longest running conflicts.
But Mugabe is believed to be anxious to have elections as soon as possible because of his failing health.
The 87-year-old ruler has visited Singapore four times this year and speculation was rife that he was seeking treatment for an undisclosed illness.
A section in Zanu PF also appears convinced that the opposition, mainly MDC-T is at its weakest and a snap poll would help the embattled Zanu PF regain sole control of government.
Zanu PF is desperate to regain the parliamentary majority it lost in the 2008 elections.
Bekithemba Mpofu, the founding secretary general of the united Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said Mugabe might never have believed that elections were possible this year but was only using the threats as a bargaining tool.
“I think they realise that they (Zanu PF) won’t win the battle to push for elections this year,” Mpofu said.
“They were using the 2011 election demand as a negotiating platform because it has always been clear that the demand was unrealistic.”
One of the negotiators in the inter-party talks recently told The Standard that Zanu PF initially wanted the unity government to run for five years but changed tact when MDC-T appeared wary of an early poll.
However, the MDC-T has indicated that it is ready for fresh elections but will only participate when necessary reforms have been put in place.
Brilliant Mhlanga, a UK- based Zimbabwean academic said Mugabe was probably trying to pre-empt this weekend’s Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit on Zimbabwe.
Sadc leaders were last night scheduled to discuss Zimbabwe’s roadmap to fresh elections amid indications that the region was growing impatient with Mugabe’s foot dragging.
“Zanu PF is very good at posting pretentious positions,” Mhlanga said.
“They have decided to pre-empt Sadc and everyone who wanted elections next year so that they can say their position was upheld by the summit.”
He said what was more important was to ensure that Mugabe stuck to the reform agenda proposed in the Global Political Agreement if Zimbabwe was to hold credible elections.