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Zimbabwe Opposition, Still Divided, Seen Weaker Facing March Elections

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change has handed the already entrenched ruling ZANU-PF party a further advantage by failing to hammer together a coalition ahead of presidential, general and national elections in March, analysts said.

The two rival formations of what is still Zimbabwe's largest opposition party admitted on Sunday that they could not come to an agreement to contest the elections as one political force, having deadlocked on the allocation of seats in Matabeleland.

Political analyst and University of Zimbabwe Professor John Makumbe told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that while the collapse of the talks was unfortunate, Zimbabweans can now indicate which is the dominant faction.

Meanwhile, the opposition's civil society allies were warning that the failure to come to agreement on a coalition leaves the MDC even more disadvantaged in the ballots.

Analysts said the impact is especially serious in the presidential race, as the chances of President Robert Mugabe for re-election have been enhanced by the entry into the contest of MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara as well as Morgan Tsvangirai. The assumption among many had been that Mutambara, a relative newcomer to the opposition, would defer to Tsvangirai, founding president of the MDC.

Reverend Ray Motsi, a Christian Alliance spokesman, said he met the leaders of both factions Monday and concluded that the divisions are so deep that any constructive engagement can only happen after the elections. He added that in light of the MDC's failure to cobble together a coalition, the opposition's prospects are dimmer.

National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku told reporter Blessing Zulu that while it was unfortunate the opposition could not achieve unity, it was also important to bear in mind that the polls were already skewed in favor of ZANU-PF.

From Bulawayo, correspondent Netsai Mlilo reported that the opposition’s failure to work together did not surprise some observers while others said they were further disillusioned some two and a half years after the MDC initially split in late 2005.

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