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Zimbabwe's Deep Crisis Could Prevent New Parliament From Sitting

The Zimbabwean parliament elected in the country's March 31 general elections is supposed to convene by July 17, but experts say the prospects for a timely launch are dim.

Constitutional experts say the the new parliament's five-year term commenced on Sunday, June 29, when President Robert Mugabe was sworn in following a single-candidate run-off election that has been denounced internationally as an electoral sham.

According to such experts, Section 62 of the Zimbabwean constitution says the first session of the new parliament and the swearing-in of house members and senators should take place no later than July 17. But those elected to the parliament say they have no idea when, realistically, it will open.

The two formations of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change claimed a majority of five seats in the new lower house. The grouping led by MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai and the formation headed by Arthur Mutambara have pledged to cooperate in parliament.

Nonetheless, constitutional lawyer Greg Linnington told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, continuing political violence against the opposition could prevent it from exercising that majority.

MDC parliamentarian Innocent Gonese of Mutare, chief whip for the Tsvangirai formation in the last parliament, said his party’s refusal to recognize Mr. Mugabe as the legitimate head of state could complicate getting the new parliamentary term going.

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