Zimbabwe opposition faction rejects poll boycott


Cris Chinaka

HARARE – Divisions in Zimbabwe’s opposition deepened on Sunday when a dissident faction dug its heels in and refused to obey an order by party leader Morgan Tsvangirai to boycott controversial senate elections.


The row over whether to take part in the Nov. 26 poll has plunged the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) into its deepest crisis since it was formed six years ago.


Critics say the elections are aimed at consolidating President Robert Mugabe’s hold on power and Tsvangirai said on Saturday a majority of his party’s national council had backed his call for a boycott at an MDC conference held in Harare.


On Sunday, a pro-election faction which shunned the key meeting dismissed the gathering as a “kangaroo council”.


“The MDC does not recognise this kangaroo council meeting that was constituted using provincial members who are not members of the MDC national council under and in terms of the party constitution,” MDC vice-president Gibson Sibanda said in a statement. He said Tsvangirai was violating the MDC’s constitution and democratic spirit.


“Accordingly we call upon all lawful organs of the party…to ignore this so-called resolution and to continue to campaign vigorously for all MDC senatorial candidates,” he said.


Tsvangirai last month ordered a boycott of the senate elections, saying taking part would lend legitimacy to a government that routinely rigged votes. However, some MDC members defied his instructions and registered as candidates for just over half of the 50 seats being contested.


On Saturday, Tsvangirai said the MDC’s decision-making national council had reversed a “purported decision” it had taken last month to participate in the elections.


The pro-election faction says Tsvangirai, who enjoys the support of the party’s influential youth and women’s leagues, acted dictatorially after the MDC’s national council voted 33-31 to participate in the polls.


However, Tsvangirai maintains the party was evenly split over the issue and he used his presidential authority to boycott, and on Saturday the MDC boss said the party’s national council had endorsed his position.


Political analysts say the rift in has weakened the MDC’s challenge to 81-year-old Mugabe, sole ruler since the southern African state’s independence from Britain in 1980.


However, they say the MDC’s future is only likely to become clearer in the coming months as the party moves towards a congress next February to elect new leaders. – Reuter

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