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Zimbabwe's Opposition Debates Quitting Parliament


Morgan Tsvangirai, left, main opposition leader in Zimbabwe addresses rally in Nyanyadzi
Members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Zimbabwe's main opposition group, are hesitant about their political future when the new parliament reopens after last week's general election which delivered President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF a large majority. The MDC is engaged in its most serious debate since it was formed five years ago.

The first debate among MDC leaders after last week's election is whether they should return to parliament.

Several MDC analysts say the opposition's experience in parliament has been "futile and agonizing" and that its effort to democratize Zimbabwe has failed.

William Bango, spokesman for MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai, confirmed that the party was in "intense" debate. He said that it wasn't only about whether the MDC goes to parliament, but whether the party continues to function inside or outside government.

Mr. Tsvangirai and others in the top leadership reluctantly agreed to participate in the March 31 election after considerable African and other international pressure.

Welshman Ncube, MDC secretary-general, said Wednesday he feels that he wants to "leave Zimbabwe and never return." He said as long as the electoral machinery was controlled by ZANU-PF there was no possibility of auditing the system.

He said the MDC had finally learned a lesson, which was that dictators cannot run democratic elections. He also said no political party could prepare itself for the level of fraud in the recent election and that he now realizes that there is no way of removing dictators democratically.

Opposition spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi was equally gloomy. He told MDC members of parliament that when there were 57 of them in parliament after the 2000 general election, they made little impact. With only 41 out of 120 elected seats now, he said the MDC would not be heard at all.

He said the MDC had opted for what he called "the ballot not the bullet" at three painful elections, and it did not bring democracy to Zimbabwe.

Three official groups of South African observers found the election reflected the will of the people. The Southern African Development Community's observer group made the same finding, with reservations.

The United States and Britain say the voting process strongly favored the ruling party.

Mr. Mugabe banned traditional observers, such as the European Union and the Commonwealth from observing this election.

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