Call for Tsvangirai to resign after poll

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Zimbabwe's main opposition party is in crisis as the fallout from a heavy, if disputed, election defeat at the hands of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF turned to criticism of its campaign and tactics. Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is expected to face calls to stand down in favour of its spokesman, Welshman Ncube.

Zimbabwe's main opposition party is in crisis as the fallout from a heavy, if disputed, election defeat at the hands of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF turned to criticism of its campaign and tactics. Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is expected to face calls to stand down in favour of its spokesman, Welshman Ncube.

Mr Tsvangirai has attacked the "rigged result" and called for a rerun but has so far been unwilling or unable to mount mass popular protests in the wake of a poll called "phoney" by the European Union and dismissed as flawed by the United States.

Eric Bloch, a regional political analyst, said there was growing resentment and "tremendous disillusionment" with the party among MDC supporters over his handling of the election. It will now need a period of "extensive restructuring" to survive, he told The Independent. The ruling Zanu-PF took 78 seats from a possible 120, with the MDC taking 41. That was 17 seats less than in 2000 and the result gives Mr Mugabe the power to change the constitution and install a successor without first having to call elections, as presently necessary. It is feared that Mr Mugabe will use his majority to bring in a senate system of government, which was rejected in a 2000 referendum.

Mr Tsvangirai has come under fire for failing to sufficiently capitalise on spiralling inflation, widespread unemployment and food shortages. His policy of threatening to boycott the elections back in September 2004, only to do an about turn in February this year, led to far fewer MDC voters registering than anticipated. This was reflected in the low turn-out of MDC support, especially in rural areas, where Zanu-PF dominated. Analysts said the MDC had, in part, been a victim of its own early success.

Since 2000 Zimbabwe went from bad to worse, principally because of Mr Mugabe's controversial land-reform programme, which saw the economy contract by 30 per cent.

Instead of harnessing popular support by presenting alternative policies, the MDC campaigned on an anti-Zanu-PF ticket. Consequently the opposition was perceived as a party of protest rather than a credible alternative. Its open-door approach to international financial institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank, did not play well with an electorate that has painful memories of the "structural adjustment" of the 1990s.

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