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Opposition MDC Factions Differ - Again - Over Mugabe Address

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe was expected to deliver his 2006 state of the nation address Wednesday to both houses of the country's legislature - but one faction of the fractured opposition says it will boycott Mr. Mugabe's speech.

A spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change faction of founding president Morgan Tsvangirai said its house members - it has no senators, having boycotted the November 2005 senate election - will not be there to hear Mr. Mugabe's remarks.

But members of the rival MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara will attend.

Government-opposition relations are more strained than usual these days because the ruling ZANU-PF party has just proposed to extend President Mugabe’s term by two years by postponing the presidential election due in 2008 until 2010. The ruling party says this will "harmonize" the presidential and general election schedules.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC faction told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the grouping is done listening to Mr. Mugabe.

Gabriel Chaibva, spokesman for the Mutambara MDC faction, said boycotting doesn't make sense because regardless of all else Mr. Mugabe remains head of state.

The tactical divergence replayed the divisions in the opposition division in July when the Mutambara faction attended the opening of parliament in the presence of Mr. Mugabe, while members of the Tsvangirai faction boycotted the event.

The MDC’s initial split in October 2005 was over the question of taking part in senate elections that November. Tsvangirai opposed contesting the elections.

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