Mugabe to Face Weaker, Divided Opposition

Mugabe to Face Weaker, Divided Opposition.

HARARE - Zimbabwe's divided opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party on Sunday failed to agree a united front to contest elections, paving the way for an easy victory for President Robert Mugabe's government.

Leaders of both factions of the MDC said talks that began Saturday broke down after the two sides failed to agree on the selection of candidates for the March 29 parliamentary and local government elections. Morgan Tsvangirai, who heads the larger faction of the MDC, told journalists in Harare that talks collapsed because the other faction led by academic Arthur Mutambara would not agree to equal distribution of seats in the southern Matabeleland region. Out of the 56 seats in Matabeleland, the other faction said they could only give us 10. This was unacceptable. This is the cause of the breakdown, said Tsvangirai, who had been tipped to represent a united opposition front as presidential candidate. Matabeleland is considered a stronghold of the Mutambara faction while the Tsvangirai group is dominant in Harare and other parts of the country. In a separate briefing to the Press, Mutambara said talks were irretrievably broken because of unreasonable demands by the Tsvangirai faction which he said demanded more seats in Matabeleland without giving away as much in Harare. “This morning our colleagues came back to us demanding 20 more seats in Matabeleland even where we have sitting MPs. At the same time, they are not prepared to make such concessions in Harare,” said Mutambara. He said that in the absence of a united front, his group would go ahead to select candidates to represent it in the presidential, parliamentary and local government polls. However, Mutambara conceded chances of either opposition faction unseating Mugabe and ZANU PF were slim. Once a formidable party that came close to ousting ZANU PF in the 2000 parliamentary elections, the MDC is now a shadow of itself when it was formed in 1999, largely due to internal squabbles on tactics to confront the ruling party and a government crackdown on its structures. The opposition party formally split in 2005 after disagreeing on whether or not to contest a senate election. Political analysts say in its fractured state, the MDC would lose an election which the international community could deem relatively free and fair and therefore restore limited or full relations with a re-elected ZANU PF government, especially if Mugabe shows preparedness to install a reformist successor after the polls.  ZANU PF is itself divided over the still unresolved question of Mugabe’s succession but analysts say the ruling party is still better organised than the opposition and many times more vicious in its push to retain power. Zimbabwe is in the grip of an acute economic recession critics blame on mismanagement by Mugabe and seen in the world’s highest inflation rate of more than 26 000 percent, 80 percent unemployment and shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency. Mugabe, who routinely organises rallies and public marches by supporters to showcase his popularity, denies ruining the country and has promised a landslide victory in March to once again prove he has the backing of ordinary Zimbabweans.


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