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Zimbabwe's opposition 'co-operating in their own demise'
Sebastien Berger and Peta Thornycroft, The Telegraph (UK)
September 20, 2007

Zimbabwe's opposition have been accused of "co-operating in their own demise" after they reached agreement with President Robert Mugabe's regime on major constitutional reforms.

Under the landmark deal, Mr Mugabe's power to appoint 30 MPs has been abolished and the number of parliamentary seats will be raised from 120 to 210.

An electoral commission consisting entirely of the President's allies will draw up these constituencies. They could seize the opportunity to rig the new seats in favour of the ruling Zanu-PF party before presidential and parliamentary polls due in March.

Both factions of the divided Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have agreed to this. They have also endorsed a key amendment of the constitution which allows parliament - where Mr Mugabe's allies have a majority - to choose his successor if he dies or retires. Previously, this would have triggered an election.

Securing this amendment was one of Mr Mugabe's longstanding ambitions. The MDC has now agreed to support it in parliament.

Jonathan Moyo, a former cabinet minister who now sits as an independent opposition MP, said the reforms would "give Mugabe a new lease of life". He added: "We don't need 90 new constituencies as we have a dramatically declining population with people leaving the country and deaths from HIV-Aids."

A scathing commentary carried on the ZW-News website, which is normally aligned with the MDC, said: "By failing to put up even ultimately futile arguments against the Bill in parliament, they have done precisely what the government desires. They have begun the process - however unwittingly - of cooperating in their own demise."

"Glaring by its omission is any mention of the comprehensively rigged voters's roll, the totally biased electoral apparatus and election courts, and the various Zanu-PF controlled militias that make any talk of free and fair elections a sick joke."

The agreement was reached during talks in South Africa's capital, Pretoria, mediated by President Thabo Mbeki. The MDC hopes to replace Zimbabwe's current election commission with an independent body. They also want to agree an entirely new consitution.

But having conceded these key changes, the MDC has been left with minimal bargaining power.

Critics say the MDC has been co-opted into lending legitimacy to Mr Mugabe's regime. The opposition's key negotiators were Prof Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti, who represent both wings of the divided party. Mr Biti has difficult relations with his superior, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of one MDC faction.

These divisions mean that Mr Mugabe has little to fear from the coming election. Both factions of the MDC may stand against one another, splitting the opposition vote.

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