Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Mugabe loses political battle over Speaker

An ally of Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean Prime Minister and former opposition leader, was re-elected as Speaker of Parliament late on Tuesday in a bitter political battle against President Robert Mugabe's party ahead of a possible general election.

The post became vacant after the Supreme Court nullified the election of Lovemore Moyo from Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) two weeks ago, claiming the original vote in 2008 did not follow proper procedures. The ruling heightened tensions in the fragile unity government formed two years ago. Mr Moyo was re-elected as speaker with 105 votes to 93.

"This victory gives us an opportunity to continue to democratise and modernise our parliamentary portfolio committees," Mr Moyo said.

The position of Speaker is crucial in the finely balanced lower house, and is of symbolic value ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections Mr Mugabe is pushing to be held this year although they are not due until 2013.

Mr Tsvangirai has threatened to boycott the elections if they are held without a new constitution and electoral reforms. The MDC says Mr Mugabe's election demands could lead to a repeat of the violence that marred the elections in 2008.