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Zimbabwe Majority Party Boos Mugabe Parliament Opening Address


President Robert Mugabe opened Zimbabwe's parliament in a ceremony marked by colonial-era symbols and defiant protest songs by the majority Movement for Democratic Change legislators, which drowned out parts of his speech. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA from Harare.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe could barely be heard during parts of his opening speech. MDC legislators booed and back benches sang through some of his long address.

Mr. Mugabe had to raise his voice to be heard, but appeared unruffled.

A flick of his eye was his only reaction when the MDC legislators all refused to stand up for him when he walked into parliament. They also remained seated when he left the house.

Mr. Mugabe's speech was similar to most he has made for the past eight years. He blamed targeted western sanctions against ZANU-PF leaders for the catastrophic state of the economy. He also accused the west of manipulating food prices.

On June 4th, Mr. Mugabe banned western humanitarian agencies from field work, effectively preventing them from feeding people in need.

He referred to recent deadlocked South African mediation on a power-sharing agreement between his ZANU-PF and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who won the most votes in the presidential election on March 29th. Mr. Mugabe claimed there was "every expectation that everyone will sign up" to the deal.

This prompted MDC legislators to heap scorn on him by booing and singing songs mocking ZANU-PF.

Tsvangirai's MDC faction has a one-seat majority in parliament over ZANU-PF and a third party, the minority faction of the MDC has 10 seats.

Overall, with the Senate included, ZANU-PF still has majority control of the House of Assembly, but Mr. Mugabe can no longer change the constitution without the MDC. The opposition party will also be able to introduce new legislation and stop ZANU-PF passing laws it does not approve.

After the address one analyst noted it is now up to the MDC to take control of parliament, and stop laws it does not want and repeal offensive ones.

The interior of Zimbabwe's parliament remains colonial in style with judges in wigs and red gowns, and the offices of state unchanged from the Rhodesian era.

When Mr. Mugabe, accompanied by about two-dozen mounted soldiers, walked to his antique open-topped Rolls Royce in the street outside parliament he was greeted by a small crowd of enthusiastic ZANU-PF supporters.


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