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Eight-Year Struggle Has Taken Toll On Zimbabwe Opposition - Analysts

Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change, the country's main opposition party, this week marked eight years in existence having contested two general elections, one presidential election and various by-elections, and split in two in the process.

Many observers said when the MDC was launched in September 1999 that it offered a strong challenge to the ruling ZANU-PF party. It took 57 of 120 contested seats in the 2000 parliamentary elections, and MDC founding president Morgan Tsvangirai came close to unseating President Robert Mugabe in the 2002 presidential election.

Since then a combination of external factors including capital treason charges against Tsvangirai, and an internal leadership battle, have blunted the MDC's momentum.

In the 2005 general election the MDC captured 41 of 120 contested seats, compared with 78 seats won by the ruling ZANU-PF party, which, including 30 seats appointed or controlled by President Mugabe, gave it a two-thirds parliamentary majority

The MDC split in late 2005 in a bruising dispute over whether it should take part in elections for a restored upper house, Tsvangirai leading the "anti-senate" faction, and the "pro-senate" faction headed by then secretary general Welshman Ncube (former student leader Arthur Mutambara was later recruited as its president).

For perspective on the MDC's eight-year drive to unseat President Mugabe and the ruling party, reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye spoke with Matthew Takaona, president of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, and Peter Kagwanja, director of democracy and governance programs at South Africa's Human Sciences Research Council.

Takaona said Zimbabwe in 1999 was ripe for a reform-minded party like the MDC.

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