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Zimbabwean Poll May Not Change Much for President


Zimbabweans go to the polls Thursday to choose 120 parliamentary representatives. But, whether President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party wins or loses, Mr. Mugabe will still be president after the result is known.

Before a single ballot is cast, the ruling ZANU-PF party will already have thirty seats in the new parliament. The 30 non-constituency seats are filled by ten chiefs elected by the Council of Chiefs, 10 resident ministers appointed by the president and another 10 presidential appointees.

Though ZANU-PF is widely expected to dominate the new parliament, both the ruling party and the opposition say they are confident of winning a majority of the 120 parliamentary seats at stake Thursday. If ZANU-PF gets 70 of the seats, it will have the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution.

Human rights lawyer Eric Matinenga says if the opposition Movement for Democratic Change does win a bare majority of the seats up for grabs, Mr. Mugabe, whose six-year term ends in 2008, may choose to carry on as before. Should the MDC victory be overwhelming he may have to sit down and talk with the opposition party to chart a way forward. During his campaign, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has repeatedly said the election is about sending Mr. Mugabe into retirement.

Mr. Mugabe, now 81, is presiding over the worst economic and political crisis since coming to power in 1980. His campaign message was that Zimbabwe is in danger of being re-colonized by the British because of the chaotic and sometimes violent land reform program launched in 2000. The exercise saw white farmers losing their land ostensibly for the re-settlement of landless blacks. Mr. Mugabe has, however, admitted that things did not go according to plan and some of his senior party members helped themselves to more than one farm.

He accuses the MDC of being puppets of the British government in this re-colonization scheme.

Mr. Tsvangirai denies the charge and says an MDC victory would usher in a new beginning for the crisis-ridden country.

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