Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), retained a key parliamentary seat in a bi-election held Saturday in the capital, Harare. The party received over 7900 votes, shocking the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party of President Robert Mugabe. But the MDC has been suffering from a split between the two factions, one led by Morgan Tsvangirai, the other by Arthur Mutambara. David Coltart, former secretary for labor affairs of the MDC, spoke with English to Africa reporter James Butty about his attempt to mediate between the two MDC factions.
“I think it demonstrates firstly that the Morgan Tsvangirai faction of the MDC has overwhelmingly dominant support amongst the opposition within Harare. That’s the first thing. The Mutambara faction obviously has a lot of work to do having to so few votes. However, the second thing it shows is that the division in the opposition has been seriously damaging to the opposition because although the Tsvangirai faction won by a wide margin, the number of votes it received [was] dramatically reduced when compared the number of votes the MDC got as a united party in the March 2005 general elections.”
Coltart says the split could hurt the MDC in a presidential election when the entire country is treated as a single constituency. He also says the single-seat bi-election should serve as a warning to Tsvangirai that it is better to use the ballot box rather than boycotting elections.
“My own view has always been that the opposition should use the courts, should use the electoral process in addition to peaceful nonviolent mass action. So I think that this does demonstrate that the both factions of the MDC, and in fact the opposition generally, has to continue using the electoral process, as flaw as it is, as a means to struggle against this regime.”
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