Zimbabwe parliament sworn in with reduced MDC numbers

August 25th, 2008 - 7:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Harare, Aug 25 (DPA) Zimbabwe’s parliament was sworn in Monday five months after it was elected, in a ceremony marred by a police crackdown on the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).Police detained two MDC members of parliament when they arrived at parliament to be sworn in, the party said in a statement.

Shua Mudiwa, MP from Mutare West, was later released and returned to parliament ahead of a tense vote for speaker, but Eliah Jembere, MP from Epworth, who was apparently one of seven MDC MPs on a police “wanted” list was still in detention.

The MDC had expressed fears the state might move to arrest some of its MPs to shrink its numbers ahead of the vote.

“Clearly the sinister agenda of this regime is to tilt the balance of numbers in their favour during the voting for the speaker of parliament,” the party said.

Mudiwa and Jembere had been among the nearly 10 MDC MPs detained, and later released, in recent months as part of what the MDC says is an attempt by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF to overturn its defeat in parliamentary elections in March.

On Tuesday Mugabe will convene parliament despite warnings from the MDC that doing so will kill talks between Zanu-PF and two MDC factions - the majority one led by Tsvangirai and a breakaway faction led by Arthur Mutambara.

Those 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.

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 go ahead from Zimbabwe’s neighbours in the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC).

After being sworn in, the MPs’ first act is to choose a speaker. Zanu-PF has not fielded a candidate, fuelling suspicions it may support Mutambara’s choice of speaker in return for a promise to work with Zanu-PF in parliament.

Tsvangirai’s MDC has 100 MPs, Zanu-PF has 99, and there is one independent. Mutambara’s faction holds the balance of power with 10 seats.

Talks between the three parties mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki stalled earlier this month over what role Tsvangirai and Mugabe would have in the unity government, with each insisting on having the lion’s share of power.

The MDC is calling for Tsvangirai to have complete control of government. Zanu-PF insists that Mugabe remain executive president.

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