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Zimbabwe Opposition Party Weighs Options

– In Zimbabwe, the government says it will convene Parliament next week, even though negotiations have not resolved the issue of a government of national unity. The opposition MDC party says that would be a violation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by both sides.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following political developments there. From Johannesburg, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about what options are now available to the MDC.

"It's a tricky situation because if the MDC fails to take up its seats in Parliament two things could happen. After a certain number of days absent from Parliament, the elected officials could lose their seat…and consequently that seat could then go to a bye-election. And given the current climate in Zimbabwe, that could be quite a dangerous thing for the MDC," she says.

Besides losing seats, the MDC would lose its power to help choose parliamentary leaders. "They will not be in a position to elect the speaker and deputy speaker of Parliament. And these are very important positions…. They could lose that opportunity to ZANU-PF (Party)," she says.

This could have a direct effect on talks to form a national unity government. Robertson says, "Yes, the MDC says if Parliament is convened it is a violation of the Memorandum of Understanding, which was the document that set the agenda for talks. And in that document, the parties agreed that Parliament would not be reconvened without consensus. However, it may come down to deciding what is the best option on the day because the talks have not reached an agreement yet regarding a possible government of national unity. And the leaders in Southern Africa are very keen that this agreement be reached as soon as possible. But there are disagreements about what powers will be held by the various parties and particularly the party leaders in such a cabinet."

The last proposal put forward called for "dual control" of the cabinet by President Robert Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

As for the status of the talks, Robertson says, "At the weekend, South African president Thabo Mbeki, who is the mediator or facilitator of the talks, said that he would like to go up to Zimbabwe by the end of this week in order to resume the mediation."

At the moment, though, Tsvangirai is touring African nations and on Thursday met with Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Kenya formed its own government of national unity following last December's disputed presidential elections that led to violence and many deaths.