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Zimbabwe's Opposition to Run as Two Parties in March Election

Talks to unify Zimbabwe's fractured opposition party have broken down. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA that the two factions will stand in the elections as separate political parties, which analysts say will strengthen long-time President Robert Mugabe in March elections.

In meetings over the weekend, the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change failed to agree on proposals to share voting districts and put up a single candidate to run against President Robert Mugabe.

The movement split in 2005 and had been trying to agree on a pact to united to challenge Mr. Mugabe in elections.

This is the second time a proposed agreement between the two factions has collapsed. In April last year, both sides came up with an agreement after 10 months of negotiations. But it failed when Tsvangirai's national executive committee rejected it.

The same scenario happened this weekend. On Saturday night, it seemed as though the two sides were close to agreement but on Sunday morning, Tsvangirai's team again voted against it. The talks between the two camps collapsed over the differences about how many candidates to field in the Matabeleland province - an MDC stronghold.

The leader of the smaller MDC group, academic Arthur Mutambara, apologized Sunday to Zimbabweans for the failure to achieve an election pact, and said a single candidate philosophy would have made it easier to deliver victory against ZANU-PF. He said his faction would go it alone, and he would stand in the presidential poll.

When he addressed a press conference in Harare on Sunday, Morgan Tsvangirai also apologized, saying: "We can't force unity down the people's throat" and went on to say the decision was regrettable, unfortunate, but the reality."

Nomination day for the elections is on Friday when each of the three main parties, ZANU-PF and the two MDC's have to put forward hundreds of candidates for national elections.

For the first time Zimbabweans will vote in four elections on one day, for the presidency, the legislature, the senate and local government.

There are nearly double the number of constituencies or voting areas these elections and no maps for voters to find out where they will be allowed to cast their vote.

Election analysts in Harare say the March 29 polls are set to be chaotic.

Mugabe has vowed to clinch a landslide victory in next month's elections to silence the opposition and shame Western foes he says are sponsoring his rivals to remove him from power.