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Zimbabwe Opposition Takes Seats in Parliament


Zimbabwe's leading opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has taken up its seats in parliament, which puts an end to speculation that the MDC would boycott parliament to protest an election it alleges President Robert Mugabe's party won fraudulently.

The 41 Movement for Democratic Change candidates who won in last month's election were sworn in as Members of Parliament. They took their oath of allegiance to the Republic of Zimbabwe along with 78 ruling ZANU-PF members and one independent.

Also sworn in were the 30 non-constituent members appointed by President Robert Mugabe and the council of chiefs, bringing to 150 the number of members in the house.

The Zimbabwean public was not sure whether the Movement for Democratic Change would take the seats it won because the party has rejected the election result. The party is taking what it describes as the most blatant cases of vote rigging to the electoral court.

MDC spokesperson for foreign affairs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga told VOA that going into parliament is by no means endorsing the result of the poll. She said the people of Zimbabwe would not benefit by the party boycotting parliament. As she put it, "it is part of a strategy. We have this little democratic space and we can use it to push for more."

Ms. Misihairabwi-Mushonga said going to parliament will not affect the question of the legitimacy of the government of President Robert Mugabe. She said 41 people in parliament cannot legitimize a government that has not been legitimized by the electorate.

In the 2000 parliamentary elections the Movement for Democratic Change won 57 of the 120 seats at stake and was able to block changes to the constitution by ZANU-PF. Last month's election gave Mr. Mugabe more than the two-thirds majority he needs in parliament to make constitutional changes.

Joining the opposition ranks is former information minister Jonathan Moyo, who fell out with the ruling party after he stood as an independent. Mr. Moyo had been left off the ZANU-PF candidate list for holding a meeting not sanctioned by the party leadership. He was expelled from the party when he defied a party directive not to stand as an independent.

After the swearing-in ceremony, parliament adjourned until June 28. The MDC will make its future plans public at a press briefing Wednesday.