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MDC factions to endorse Tsvangirai

Augustine Mukaro/ Orirando Manwere

THE two opposition MDC formations’ national executives meet today to endorse Morgan Tsvangirai as their candidate to face Presid

ent Robert Mugabe in the March elections.

This is the first time they have met since their acrimonious split in 2005 over the reintroduction of the senate.

The standing committees of the two formations will table a reunification pact reached under the chairmanship of Professor Brian Raftopoulos in South Africa this week before the national executives consider three key options of coming together. The pact proposes that the unity could either be an electoral pact, a coalition or a total reunification in readiness for the March 29 elections.

Sources privy to the developments said both formations are pushing for a coalition led by a National Coalition Council composed of national executive committees from each formation. The pact also spells out the criteria that will be followed in choosing the presidential candidate, House of Assembly and Senate representatives under the coalition arrangement.

MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube yesterday confirmed the meeting saying it would determine the future course of the opposition.

“We will resume our negotiations tomorrow following the visit to South Africa by the leadership of our counterparts (the Tsvangirai formation),” Ncube said. “We are expecting them back tonight (Thursday) and we should meet tomorrow morning to decide whether or not to participate in the elections. Should we decide to participate, we will also agree on the selection of the presidential candidate and candidates for the parliamentary, senatorial and council polls, including how the coalition will be structured.”

Under the coalition, the MDC formations have agreed that if they decide to contest the presidential election, the coalition will put forward a single candidate, and that candidate will be chosen by the formation led by Tsvangirai. The agreement implies that Tsvangirai would be the united front presidential candidate to face Mugabe on March 29. If the candidate wins the presidential election, he will appoint as vice-president a person nominated by the Mutambara formation.

The sources said Mutambara would be declared a candidate for a safe parliamentary constituency in Harare, most likely the newly-created Harare West constituency.

The meeting will also endorse the selection of candidates set out in the coalition pact. The agreement sets out that if the coalition decides to contest the general election the question of which formation should put forward a candidate to contest a seat will be decided as follows: where a member of one of the formations holds a seat, that formation will put forward a candidate to contest it. Where a seat was not held by a member of either formation, the coalition will agree upon an equitable formula for deciding which formation should field a candidate.

The agreement implies that sitting MPs will not be challenged, a clause which has already riled aspiring candidates from both formations who had started campaigning.

Ncube said the retention of sitting MPs was one of the proposals on the table for negotiation.

The pact also proposes that if the coalition decides to contest the senate elections, each formation will be allocated 50% of the available seats, ensuring that 50% of the chosen candidates in the senate are women.

In the event of the coalition failing to win the presidential and parliamentary elections, the national coalition council will meet to decide the future.

Previous attempts to bring together the warring formations collapsed over these key issues.

The standing committees, which met in South Africa for four days between January 17 and 20, reconvened in Johannesburg at the weekend to finalise the unity deal after President Mugabe announced the election date.

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