Opposition MDC takes speaker post in Zimbabwe parliament (Second lead)

August 25th, 2008 - 9:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Harare, Aug 25 (DPA) In a landmark victory for Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the candidate of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won the vote for speaker of parliament Monday giving the party control of the key post for the first time.The MDC’s Lovemore Moyo received 110 votes against 98 for Paul Themba Nyathi, the only other candidate, who was fielded by a breakaway MDC faction led by Arthur Mutamabara.

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF did not put up its own candidate and backed Nyathi.

“The MDC is a people’s party. Once again the people have spoken,” George Sibotshiwe, spokesman for Tsvangirai told DPA jubilantly.

The announcement of Moyo’s win sparked joyful scenes among MDC MPs in parliament, who sang and cheered “Zanu is rotten”.

A defiant Moyo in his acceptance speech said parliament would “cease to be a rubber stamping house. It’ll ensure that progressive laws are passed.”

Of most concern to Mugabe are strong suspicions that one or more of his own party members went over to Tsvangirai in the secret ballot.

Tsvangirai’s MDC has 100 MPs, but only 99 were present for the vote. Zanu-PF has 99, Mutambara’s faction has 10 seats and there is one independent.

Unless all of Mutambara’s MPs voted against their own man - a scenario thought unlikely - some Zanu-PF members must have switched sides.

A senior MDC source said the party estimated at least four Zanu-PF members had voted for Moyo, and that the remaining extra votes came from the Mutambara faction, which is divided on the prospect of working with Mugabe’s party.

The win could disrupt Mugabe’s plans to convene parliament Tuesday and try to form a government without Tsvangirai.

“We have control of parliament now,” the MDC source said. “We now decide when parliament will sit. As far as we’re concerned the speaker will convene parliament when there is a president.”

The MDC, the West and some African countries refuse to recognize Mugabe as president given that he was returned to power in an election that the MDC boycotted.

Tsvangirai took the most votes in the last credible presidential election in March.

Earlier the MDC’s position had looked bleak when two of its MPs were detained by police on arrival at parliament in what the MDC termed Zanu-PF’s “sinister agenda” to rig the parliamentary vote in its favour.

The two - Shua Mudiwa, MP for Mutare West and Eliah Jembere, MP for Epworth - were later released and returned to vote.

Moyo’s election strengthens Tsvangirai’s hand in stalled negotiations with Mugabe on the formation of a government of national unity.

The talks are currently deadlocked over how Mugabe and Tsvangirai would share power if, as proposed, Mugabe remains president and Tsvangirai becomes prime minister in a Kenya-style deal aimed at ending months of political violence.

The MDC is calling for Tsvangirai to have control of government. Zanu-PF insists that Mugabe remain both head of state and head of government.

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara had agreed at the outset of their negotiations in July not to convene parliament or form a government, “save by consensus”.

But Mugabe later got the nod to forge ahead from Zimbabwe’s neighbours in the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC).

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