The smaller formation of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Changes said Monday its seven members of Parliament will support the candidate for House speaker nominated by the larger MDC formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, seemingly dashing hopes within President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF of winning the position.
The MDC formation led by Welshman Ncube had said earlier that it would abstain in the election to protest what it considered unfair treatment by the Tsvangirai MDC formation as well as ZANU-PF over the vexed question of whether Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara should retain his seat now that he no longer heads the lesser MDC wing.
But Secretary General Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga of the Ncube MDC branch told reporters in Harare on Monday that the party has changed its position in response to the re-arrest last week of Energy Minister Elton Mangoma of the Tsvangirai MDC formation on corruption charges, and threats of further arrests of MDC lawmakers.
Misihairambwi-Mushonga charged that ZANU-PF was trying to rig the vote in Parliament coming up Tuesday by unfair tactics aimed at reducing MDC ranks.
ZANU-PF and the Tsvangirai MDC are about evenly matched in terms of House votes, so the Ncube MDC with seven legislators is in a position to decide the election.
The Supreme Court on March 10 nullified the 2008 election of Lovemore Moyo of the Tsvangirai MDC formation as speaker, citing irregularities in the balloting.
In the House speaker election coming up Tuesday, the Tsvangirai MDC seeks to return Lovemore Moyo to the position while ZANU-PF has put forth its chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo, a former legislator and longtime ambassador to South Africa.
Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma told a news conference in Harare that a secret ballot for the new speaker will be held at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
Zvoma insisted however that Lovemore Moyo will not be eligible to vote in the race, as he resigned his parliamentary seat in 2008 following his election as speaker.
Chief Whip Innocent Gonese of the Tsvangirai MDC formation said the party was confident that Lovemore Moyo will reclaim the speakership.
ZANU-PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo said his party is equally confident of victory.
"We are confident that our candidate will win, and we hope to get support from all the political parties," Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo.