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Tsvangirai Faces Challenge Over Election Boycott Decision

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Thursday he is standing firm on his decision as president of the Movement for Democratic Change that the party will boycott November senate elections, despite objections from other senior officials.

Mr. Tsvangirai told the Voice of America’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that whatever other views may be held in the party he speaks for it on major policy points.

But Paul Themba Nyathi, nominally spokesman for the country’s main opposition party, said there is room for negotiation with Mr. Tsvangirai. He and MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube are among those who want to contest the Nov. 26 elections.

Reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Mr. Nyathi, asking where the party now stands on the senate issue from his own perspective.

Civil society leaders, meanwhile, were praising Mr. Tsvangirai for what they see as his defense of opposition principles in his override of the MDC National Executive Council vote, which by most accounts was marginally in favor of election participation.

Zimbabwe Integrated Program Chairman Heneri Dzinotyiwei says democracy has limits and Mr. Tsvangirai’s decision was in the best interests of the party. But he adds that the burden for the moment is on Mr. Tsvangirai to bring around his colleagues.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokeswoman Elizabeth Marunda says her group backs the “decisive” position taken by the MDC leader.

Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu sought the views of Lovemore Madhuku, the influential chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly advocacy group.

Political analyst John Makumbe told Carole Gombakomba that while both positions are valid, the current environment is simply not conducive to free and fair elections.

The ruling party continued to dismiss the MDC decision to boycott the ballot, saying it will proceed with the elections and select its candidates this weekend.

Deputy Minister for Youth Saviour Kasukwere, a politburo member of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, told Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that Mr. Tsvangirai’s override of party dissenters showed “political immaturity.”

Smaller opposition parties said they will seek seats. But some, like Zanu Ndonga, complain that electoral officials seem uninformed on senate election regulations.

Zanu Ndonga President Wilson Khumbula told reporter Chris Gande that candidates in the election will also have to contend with fuel shortages throughout the country.

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