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Zimbabwe Opposition Committee Backs Party President Call for Election Boycott

A slim majority of the national executive committee of Zimbabwe's leading opposition party Saturday has given its support to the party president's call to boycott the upcoming senatorial elections.

The executive committee of Zimbabwe's opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has 30 members. After a committee meeting on Saturday, an MDC official said 16 of the members backed party president Morgan Tsvangirai's bid to keep his party out of the November 26 poll.

The opposition party's secretary for youth, Nelson Chamisa, told VOA that the national executive is behind the Mr. Tsvangirai. Party chairman Isaac Matongo, who previously had been in favor of participation, was a surprise attendee at the meeting and a surprise backer of Mr. Tsvangirai's position.

Mr. Chamisa said following the committee meeting Mr. Matongo left for the eastern city of Mutare to address an anti-senate election rally with Mr. Tsvangirai.

The meeting also resolved to push for a new constitution under which free and fair elections can be held.

There has been widespread speculation on the future of the MDC after Mr. Tsvangirai overruled a vote for participation in the senatorial elections earlier this month.

Since Mr. Tsvangirai's veto, the MDC has been involved in a very public dispute, pitting Mr. Tsvangirai against those MDC leaders who believe party members should take part in the poll.

The Senate, the second chamber of Zimbabwe's legislature, was abolished more than a decade ago, but was reintroduced through a recent constitutional amendment. The MDC opposed the re-introduction of the senate, accusing President Robert Mugabe of using it to create positions for friends. The MDC opposition, however, was unable to prevent passage of the amendment. Mr. Mugabe's party, Zanu-PF, has a two-thirds majority in parliament, which enables it to amend the constitution without need of opposition support.

Regarding next month's election, Mr. Tsvangirai questions the wisdom of participating in a poll whose result he says is pre-determined. The opposition party rejected the results of the 2000 and 2005 parliamentary elections and the 2002 presidential elections, citing massive fraud, violence and rigging.

Attempts this week to have Mr. Tsvangirai meet with the MDC leaders who favor participation to iron out their differences have been unsuccessful.

None of the MDC leaders who support participation in the elections could be reached for comment.

At stake in the November 26 poll are 50 seats in the 66 member senate. Traditional chiefs, widely seen as pro Mr. Mugabe's party, will choose ten representatives from their midst and Mr. Mugabe will appoint the remaining six senators.

There have been claims and counterclaims about who is or is not standing for election in the senatorial poll. The final list of candidates probably will not be decided until after the nomination court for the elections convenes November 24.