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Harare Parties Jostle for Control of Parliament

With Zimbabwe's parliament called to convene on Tuesday, the main political parties including President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and both formations of the Movement for Democratic Change are positioning them for the first critical vote for speaker of the lower house.

The outcome of that vote by the 210 members of the house of assembly could set the tone for a parliament in which the combined opposition Movement for Democratic Change holds a majority - but may not exercise it as many anticipated after the March general election.

Political sources said the MDC formation of Arthur Mutambara will put forward Paul Themba Nyathi as its own candidate for speaker when parliament is recalled next week.

The MDC grouping led by Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to nominate its national chairman, Lovemore Moyo. Division between the two MDC camps could open the door wider for a deal between Mutambara’s MDC and ZANU-PF, which might seek to secure the post of deputy speaker - and court the MDC faction as a coalition partner by backing Themba Nyathi

The ZANU-PF central committee was to meet Saturday to choose its own candidate. But party sources said the short list includes National Chairman John Nkomo and ministers defeated in the general election on March 29, including Oppah Muchinguri and Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.

Compromise candidates include former ZANU-PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa, who broke with the ruling party in 2005 over its forced eviction and demolition drive, former speaker Cyril Ndebele and Mutambara faction Vice President Gibson Sibanda.

While the opening of parliament seems a sure thing, there are many questions regarding the cabinet. Some lawyers say Mr. Mugabe can name ministers who lost their parliamentary seats for an additional three months, while others say they must step down.

National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional expert, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that there is no constitutional impediment to recalling parliament even though Tsvangirai and other MDC officials have warned that it breaches the July 21 memorandum setting power-sharing talks.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...