Speaker could block reconvening of Parliament

HARARE - This week's election of an MDC Speaker of Parliament could have far-reaching implications for the future of democracy in Zimbabwe.

According to legal experts, the Speaker can block the convening of Parliament, which is scheduled to be opened by Mugabe on Tuesday, a ceremony the MDC has threatened to boycott.

For the last 28 years Robert Mugabe has had total power in parliament, but his power base has come under threat after the main MDC party won the influential position of Speaker of Parliament on Monday.

For years this position has not been significant because of ZANU (PF)’s total control but it has become a powerful position now there is a viable “opposition” in parliament.

Last week the Southern African Development Community recommended the reconvening of parliament after the talks by the Zimbabwean political rivals reached a deadlock. This development ignited debate on its implications for the unresolved talks.  While the mediator, South African President Thabo Mbeki, had indicated that the talks would resume soon, he possibly wanted to use the parliamentary elections to put pressure on Morgan Tsvangirai to append his signature to the agreement. But the MDC’s winning of the Speakership bolsters Tsvangirai’s position and negotiating platform, and reaffirms his victory on 29 March.

It’s reported that the vote, which was conducted in secret, led to four ZANU (PF) MPs breaking rank to support Lovemore Moyo. A number of the Mutambara faction’s MPs also voted with the main MDC.

Glen Mpani, the Regional Co-ordinator at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Cape Town, said the agenda for what happens in Parliament is now in the hands of the Speaker and that, in theory, the new Speaker can block any directives from the Executive until the talks between the political rivals are complete, or the issue of Mugabe’s legitimacy has been solved.

The commentator went on to say the victory of the MDC Tsvangirai today brings new impetus to the current negotiations between the two MDCs and ZANU (PF). He added: “The result is an indictment of the leadership of Arthur Mutambara and Welshman Ncube. Mbeki as the mediator needs to question this formation’s significance in the negotiations in the face of outright rebellion from its members. They have displayed high moral fortitude in the face of immense pressure from their leadership and ZANU (PF).” – SW Radio Africa

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