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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Says No to Senate Elections


Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change is refusing to accept the result of a secret ballot of the party's highest body, which narrowly supported participation in next month's elections for a new senate. The six-year old MDC has been seriously divided after deliberations over the upcoming elections.

Mr. Tsvangirai allowed the MDC's national council of more than 60 members to hold a secret ballot after hours of debate failed to find consensus on participation or boycott of senate elections.

Those who are for participation won by a single vote, but Mr. Tsvangirai said as president of the Movement for Democratic Change he could not endorse the decision and would not lead the party into the poll.

Senate elections are the result of a constitutional amendment passed in late August by Zimbabwe's parliament, which is dominated by President Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF.

The MDC said the constitutional amendment was illegitimate and continues to say that no elections in Zimbabwe are free or fair.

MDC leaders who support participation say even though the process is flawed they cannot concede political advantage to ZANU PF in urban areas.

Mr. Tsvangirai, and most civil-rights activists, argued during the past two months that participation would legitimize Mr. Mugabe's flawed electoral processes.

Following the council meeting, MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said the party is going through, what he said, is a difficult patch.

He said he hoped that wise counsel would prevail, that the party would move on to deal decisively with the oppression of the people and hardships under the ZANU PF government.

Some senior MDC members, who asked not to be named, say they are upset because Mr. Tsvangirai has refused to accept the outcome of the ballot. Others say Mr. Tsvangirai had no choice, because as president of the party he had to use his political weight and leadership to restrain members he believes are not acting in the best interest of the party.

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