Zimbabwean opposition leader elected parliament speaker (Lead)

August 25th, 2008 - 8:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Harare, Aug 25 (Xinhua) Zimbabwean opposition party Monday won the vote for speaker of the first parliament since the disputed election in March, according to agencies. Lovemore Moyo of the main opposition the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won 110 votes, dealing a blow to President Robert Mugabe in a post-election power struggle, reports said.

Zimbabwean parliament convened Monday despite a deadlock in power-sharing negotiations to end a post-election crisis.

Before the swearing-in ceremony, police arrested two members of the MDC when they were entering the parliament building, and made no comment on the arrests, agencies reported.

Soon after the March election, police took up a manhunt for MDC officials over charges of murder, rape and electoral violence.

President Mugabe appointed three non-constituency members of the Senate and eight provincial governors, Zimbabwean state media reported Monday.

The MDC said the arrests of two members and Mugabe’s unilateral appointment of senators would further threaten the talks between the two parties.

“Clearly they have chosen the path of arrogance, unilateralism that’s a serious blow to confidence building in the talks,” said MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

DPA added: 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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