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Zimbabwe's Opposition Factions Differ On Call For By-Elections

The two formations of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change have adopted different positions on the proposal by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to organize by-elections to fill three vacant house seats and three empty senate chairs.

The dominant MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai, prime minister-designate under the power-sharing arrangement subscribed to Sept. 15 by both MDC formations with the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe, says holding by-elections at this time would violate the political stand-still provision of the power-sharing agreement.

Article XXI of the agreement stipulates that for one year only the party holding a seat should field a candidate if the seat becomes vacant for whatever reason, in the interest of avoiding conflict and giving the traumatized Zimbabwean electorate a period of rest.

In the House of Assembly. the Gokwe-Gumunyu seat was vacated on the death of ZANU-PF MP Ephraim Mushoriwa. The Matobo North seat became empty when Chairman Lovemore Moyo of the Tsvangirai MDC formation was elected house speaker. The Guruve North seat fell vacant upon the death of lawmaker Cletus Mabharanga of ZANU-PF.

On the senate side, the Chegutu seat was vacated by ZANU-PF's Edna Madzongwe when she was elected senate president; the Chiredzi seat fell vacant after Titus Maluleke of ZANU-PF was appointed Provincial Governor of Masvingo; and the Gokwe South seat was vacated by Jaison Max Kokerai Machaya of ZANU-PF, named Midlands provincial governor.

MDC Elections Director Dennis Murira told reporter Carole Gombakomba that his party awaits the outcome of power-sharing talks, but said the move to hold by-elections signals in his view that ZANU-PF has reneged on the effective one-year elections moratorium.

VOA was unable to reach ZANU-PF Political Commissar Elliot Manyika for comment. But the party has announced that it is getting ready to contest the by-elections.

Elsewhere, Elections Director Paul Themba Nyathi of the MDC formation headed by Arthur Mutambara said that as the power-sharing deal has not been enshrined in law, his party sees no impediment to holding by-elections to fill empty house and senate seats.

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