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Zimbabwe Opposition Splits Down Middle in Senate Nominations

Candidates from Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change registered as candidates in better than half of the country’s 50 elected senate constituencies to be contested next month, defying a call from MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai to boycott the poll and underscoring deep divisions in the highest ranks of the party.

The day’s activities left Zimbabwe’s largest opposition party split down the middle on the question of participation in November 26 elections to fill 50 senate seats - another 16 to be filled by traditional chiefs or appointed by President Robert Mugabe.

With all nomination courts across the country reporting, MDC politicians had submitted nomination papers in 26 senate constituencies. The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front named candidates in all 50 elective constituencies. With only five other candidates in the running – four independents and one from the small ZANU formation – ZANU-PF candidates in 19 constituencies were left unopposed.

Tsvangirai spokesman William Bango told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party president would not recognize official MDC candidates the party members who submitted their names to nomination courts on Monday.

Mr. Tsvangirai’s opponents in the party insist such candidacies were authorized by an Oct. 12 vote by the MDC National Executive Council which yielded a slim majority in favor of contesting senate seats – but which Mr. Tsvangirai quickly overrode.

MDC Deputy Secretary Gift Chimanikire told Blessing Zulu why he and other top party officials decided it was important to contest the elections despite the divisive effect.

In Matabeleland, a traditional MDC stronghold and also the home region of the faction for participation in the senate elections, five MDC candidates each filed nominations in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and in the regional capital of Bulawayo.

Correspondent Babongile Dlamini spoke with Studio 7 reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele about developments in Bulawayo and the scene at the nomination court there.

In Harare metropolitan province, around the capital, the MDC put forward just three candidates in a day marked by turmoil, reported correspondent Thomas Chiripasi.

In Mutare, in the east, only members of the ruling ZANU-PF party filed papers as the opposition leadership in Manicaland province backed Mr. Tsvangirai.

Correspondent Sydney Sithole filed a report from Mutare.

In Mashonaland West the opposition as well as the ruling party nominated candidates for the senate. ZANU-PF was positioned to contest all five of the senate seats for the province, while the MDC was set to field candidates in just four constituencies.

Tension ran high outside the nomination court in Chinhoyi between MDC members for and against election participation. Provincial party chief Japhert Karemba objected to the Chinhoyi court’s acceptance of nomination papers without his signature.