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S African Prez says he will not seek third term

By announcing this, Thabo Mbeki dispelled speculation that he was trying to hold onto power after his mandate ends in 2009.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2006 11:11 IST

South African President Thabo Mbeki on Monday said that he would not seek a third term in office, dispelling speculation that he was trying to hold onto power after his mandate ends in 2009.

"By the end of 2009, I will have been in a senior position in government for 15 years. I think that's too long," Mbeki said in an interview to state broadcaster SABC.

"I think that after 15 years, I should step aside in any case."

Mbeki, 63, succeeded Nelson Mandela as South Africa's second democratically elected president in 1999 and won a second five-year term in 2004.

Mandela chose Mbeki to be deputy president in 1994 after his African National Congress (ANC) swept to power in elections at the end of apartheid.

There had been speculation that Mbeki would use the huge majority held by the ANC in parliament to change the constitution to allow him to stand again in the 2009 elections.

But Mbeki quashed those rumours in the interview broadcast on SABC television and radio.

"For a long time now, the ANC has taken the position that we don't want to change the constitution," said Mbeki.

"Even when we got more than a two-thirds majority, we said this, that we are not going to use this two-thirds majority fundamentally to change the constitution. And that remains our position."

Mbeki's statement was expected to redirect attention to the succession debate as the ANC is virtually assured of re-election in 2009.

First Published: Feb 06, 2006 11:09 IST