President Robert Mugabe’s party does not feel threatened by moves to form an election coalition, state-controlled papers say.

Main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed pacts with former vice president Joice Mujuru and the leader of another small party, Welshman Ncube, this week as the first step towards building a coalition seeking to unseat long-time ruler Mugabe in elections next year.

The move has been greeted with cautious optimism by critics of Mugabe, who have seen Tsvangirai and his party lose – sometimes narrowly – almost all elections since the Movement for Democratic Change was formed in 1999 (the MDC did win a majority of seats in parliament in 2008 polls).

But those loyal to Mugabe are shrugging off the threat a united front could pose to his 37-plus years in power.

The state-owned Chronicle says Zimbabweans have been getting a “full spectrum of positives” from Mugabe’s government since independence in 1980 – things like education, healthcare and dignity, shareholder trusts and support for farmers under the command agriculture scheme.

“Zanu-PF is a party that is rightly beholden to the electorate and does not waste its time wanting to please foreigners,” the Bulawayo-based paper said in an editorial this weekend.

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