MDC’s triumph in capturing control of Parliament raises hopes for millions.

For millions of Zimbabweans, that angry look was enough to send an exhilarating message of hope. Robert Mugabe had been thwarted for the first time in years.

He had insisted on opening Parliament with traditional pomp and his familiar denunciations of the West, despite a promise that he would not do so unless a power-sharing agreement was reached with Morgan Tsvangirai. Yesterday his hubris was answered – with jeers, catcalls and slogans denouncing Zanu (PF) by jubilant MDC members. The 84-year-old President raised his voice, glowered and raced through his final lines. His humiliation was broadcast live on television, plain for all to see.

 This may not have been Zimbabwe’s Ceaucescu moment. The Romanian dictator similarly was shocked and angry at being jeered as he delivered a speech to the crowd in December 1989; within three days he had been forced out of office and was shot dead. But it is clear that Mr Mugabe and his security forces have been out-manoeuvred at last. Police tried to ensure that the President’s party would still control the legislature, despite the

Opposition’s victory in the parliamentary election. They seized two MPs and waited outside Parliament to arrest 17 more MDC supporters, to deny Mr Tsvangirai a majority. But they forgot to bar the back door. Inside, Zanu (PF) leaders also thought that they could count on the votes of a breakaway MDC faction. But they did not realise that a secret ballot would protect all those, including some of their own party, determined to respect the election result.

 For the first time in 28 years, Mr Mugabe now has to contend with a hostile Parliament. The Opposition has already spoken of repealing repressive legislation, curbing state abuses and denying money for measures proposed by the President. Mr Mugabe is unlikely to accept this setback. His instinct, and that of his cronies who see their position threatened, will be to deploy his bullyboys in a brutal new assault on those MPs who have had the temerity to thwart him. He will also attempt to bypass Parliament, ruling by decree and using the special powers that he has awarded to himself.

 Nevertheless, the MDC’s triumph in capturing control of Parliament is of huge strategic and psychological importance. It will revive the MDC, which has appeared unsure of how to exploit its electoral gains, and will bolster Mr Tsvangirai’s determination to hold out against attempts by Mr Mugabe to force through a power-sharing agreement that leaves all the levers of power in his own hands. It will also show a cowed country that Mr Mugabe can be defied without recourse to violence. The political victory will do little to alleviate the people’s suffering, boost food supplies or cut into an inflation rate now topping 11 million per cent. But it will lift the spirits of Zimbabweans who despaired of seeing any change after their ballot box rejection of Zanu (PF).

The Opposition’s control of Parliament may also make it harder for Mr Mugabe to avoid ceding some power in new talks, which Zimbabwe’s neighbours still see as the only way forward. South Africa, however, will find it harder to deny that the election changed anything or that Mr Tsvangirai must have real executive powers. The hope for the rest of the world is that the ground is finally shaking under the old autocrat’s feet.

Comments

I find it suprising that the opposition has not publicly denied that the “sanctions are harming the country”. As best i know, the sanctions are largely against individuals, the only sanctions harming the general populace are those of Mugabe and ZANU-PF restricting the function of international aid. The Times, August 27,2008

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