Rivals to Zimbabwe opposition party leader boycott meeting

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The Independent Online

Tsvangirai called the meeting of the Movement for Democratic Change's National Council in Harare to try and rein in colleagues who favor the opposition's participation in an election to held on 26 November for a newly created upper house, or Senate.

Mr Tsvangirai ordered the party not to contest the Senate election, but MDC vice president Gibson Sibanda, secretary general Welshman Ncube and deputy secretary general Gift Chimanikire have defied the order.

The rebels have nominated 26 candidates to run in the vote for 50 elected seats in the new upper house.

Mr Tsvangirai argues the creation of an upper house, under a constitutional amendment the opposition opposed in the House of Assembly, will strengthen President Robert Mugabe's hold on the legislature and give credibility to a fraudulent ballot.

Party leaders who favor contesting the November poll did not attend Saturday's meeting, said Paul Themba-Nyathi, the official party spokesman.

"The meeting was irrelevant," he said.

Mr Tsvangirai's boycott order ignored a vote among the party's leaders on October 12 that narrowly favored participation in the election.

Mr Themba-Nyathi said the party leader's order breached the MDC's democratic principles. "He has disregarded those principles and shown newly found dictatorial tendencies," he said.

Mr Tsvangirai's office, in a statement after the meeting of loyal opposition officials, said if opposition candidates do not withdraw their participation within the next week they will not be standing on an opposition ticket.

It said the main body of the party would campaign against the poll.