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Showdown looms as Zim MPs meet

HARARE, August 24 – The Zimbabwe parliament meets Monday for the first time since elections that unleashed a major crisis and increased President Robert Mugabe’s international isolation.

Mugabe will swear in newly elected members of parliament in a new challenge to opponents of his three decades in power.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of Morgan Tsvangirai said it opposes the calling a parliamentary session but will attend the swearing-in on Monday. The meeting is also to elect a new speaker ahead of the official opening of parliament on Tuesday.

The MDC, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and an MDC splinter group led by Arthur Mutambara have all indicated they will field a candidate for the speaker’s post. Experts say there will have to be "horse-trading" between the parties to get a result.

Parliamentary and presidential elections were held in March, setting off months of political unrest after Tsvangirai claimed that Mugabe fixed the presidential election result.

ZANU-PF suffered a historic reverse when it won only 99 of the parliamentary seats, while the MDC got 100 and Mutambara’s party got 10 with one independent also elected.

Eldred Masungure, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, said there will be co-operation between Mutambara’s formation and Mugabe’s party in electing a speaker.

"There is bound to be a lot of horse trading between Mutambara’s guys and ZANU-PF more than with Tsvangirai’s guys," he said, predicting an "alliance or coalition in return for some deal or agreement."

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Bornwell Chakaodza, a political analyst and newspaper columnist, agreed that some kind of deal would be needed to elect a speaker of parliament and president of senate.

The Herald, a government run daily, said Saturday that the fight for the speaker’s chair will be between the two MDC formations, but noted that all three parties need each other’s support.

It highlighted that neither the MDC nor ZANU-PF can do anything in parliament without Mutambara’s faction.

Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of the presidential election but did not get the necessary majority to be declared winner. He boycotted the run off because of alleged violence against his supporters.

Chakaodza warned that reconvening parliament alone "cannot solve the crisis of legitimacy in the country and without that, it’s just some kind of some shadow boxing."

In Senate, ZANU-PF controls 30 seats, while the MDC has 24 and the Mutambara faction six. The chamber has no significant power.

33 Mugabe appointees — traditional chiefs, provincial governors, women, disabled groups and other interested parties — take the senate numbers up to 93 members.

Edwin Mushoriwa, spokesman for the Mutambara faction, said the party was trying to get support for its candidate for speaker in negotiations with the other two groups.

"Since none of the three parties has control of the house (parliament), it is important that we work together to come up with one candidate," he told AFP.

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Tapiwa Mashakada, an MDC spokesman, said his group "will be pushing for own candidate, unless there is a compromise from the other two parties."

Didymus Mutasa, ZANU-PF secretary for administration said although they had their own candidate, it was important to get all party agreement on one candidate.

"It was however, one of the tasks of the inter-party dialogue to settle for a single candidate in view of the fact that no single party can achieve that without the support of the other party," he told the Herald, in reference to mediation efforts by South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki’s to end the political crisis.

Zimbabwe’s political unrest has worsened an economic crisis which has seen widespread unemployment and inflation now officially at more than 11.2 million percent — while experts say it is even higher.

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