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Zimbabwe Opposition Chief Imposes Boycott of Senate Race

Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change will not take part in senate elections that President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party has scheduled for November 26, following an executive decision by MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai breaking a deadlock within the party over whether to field candidates or boycott.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from the press conference at MDC headquarters in Harare following the decision.

Mr. Tsvangirai has come under fire from some within his party for using his executive powers to declare a boycott of the senate elections on grounds that the senate was created and the election called by the ruling party simply to consolidate power.

Some MDC officials say 60 percent of MDC committee members voting today in Harare wanted to contest the elections, but Mr. Tsvangirai said the vote was evenly divided and he had to weigh in as opposition leader in favor of the boycott.

Mr. Tsvangirai had made clear before internal party vote that he opposed participation in the senate election, while MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube was known to have made the case in favor of challenging the ruling party for senate seats.

Speaking with Studio 7 reporter Carole Gombakomba, Mr. Tsvangirai denied that he overrode a majority in the MDC National Executive Council voting to participate in the election to fill 50 seats in the senate. Another 16 seats are filled by appointment.

Mr. Tsvangirai said he is comfortable with his decision, as the MDC was not going to benefit from seeking seats in the senate, which he called a ruling party brainchild.

A government spokesman said the decision to boycott the elections changes nothing.

Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga tells reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele that the ballot will proceed as scheduled on November 26, adding that the opposition’s decision to stand aside from the senate poll was dictated to it by the West.

While some in the opposition party’s leadership were not happy with Mr. Tsvangirai’s decision, its national youth chairman, Nelson Chamisa, tells Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that his influential youth wing strongly supports the president.

The opposition had come under intense pressure from Zimbabwen civil society groups not to participate in the senate election. National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku hailed the MDC leader’s decision to call a boycott.

Dr. Madhuku tells reporter Carole Gombakomba that the MDC should not even have wasted time debating election participation as the country is no longer democratic.

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