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Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Monday, 25 August 2008 17:50 UK

MDC wins Zimbabwe parliament vote

The new Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo being carried by his supporters
The MDC MPs were overjoyed at Lovemore Moyo's victory

The candidate of Zimbabwe's opposition MDC has been elected speaker of parliament, after MPs were sworn in following elections five months ago.

MDC chairman Lovemore Moyo becomes the first opposition speaker since the country's independence in 1980.

As the MPs arrived for the ceremony, two MDC law-makers were arrested, a party spokesman said.

President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF did not field a candidate for the vote, but backed a rival MDC faction.

The BBC's Karen Allen says this was a tactic to try and engineer control of parliament, which has backfired.

However, the Zanu-PF candidate was elected to be president of the upper house, the Senate, reports Reuters news agency.

As a result of the March elections, the breakaway MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) faction holds the balance of power in the House of Assembly.

They have chosen the path of arrogance, unilateralism that's a serious blow to confidence-building in the talks
Nelson Chamisa, MDC

But Mr Moyo won with 110 votes, against 98 for Paul Themba Nyathi from the smaller faction.

Our correspondent says the results mean at least one Zanu-PF MP voted for Mr Moyo in the secret ballot.

The MDC has 100 seats - one seat more than President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF - while the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC faction has 10 seats.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai opposed the recall of parliament, which Mr Mugabe is to officially open on Tuesday.

He says it could jeopardise power-sharing talks, which are currently deadlocked.

MP released

After being sworn in, the opposition MPs sat on the government benches, reports the AFP news agency.

"You sit on that side. You are now in the opposition," they shouted at their Zanu-PF rivals.

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Celebrations for Lovemore Moyo's election as speaker

MDC MPs sang and cheered when it was announced that Mr Moyo had won the vote and carried him shoulder-high.

Zanu-PF's Rural Housing Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, long seen as a possible successor to Mr Mugabe, offered his congratulations.

"Mr Speaker, Sir. This is a truly historic event and I would like, on behalf of the president, our party and this side of this august House, to congratulate you," he said in parliament, Reuters reports.

The MDC had warned that 15 of its MPs would not attend the swearing-in ceremony, as they were in hiding following a state-sponsored campaign of violence.

The police had accused them of murder, rape and political violence.

PARLIAMENTARY SEATS
House of Assembly
* MDC Tsvangirai: 100
* Zanu-PF: 99
* MDC Mutambara: 10
* Independent: 1
Senate
* Zanu-PF: 30
* MDC Tsvangirai: 24
* MDC Mutambara: 6
* Traditional chiefs: 18
* Provincial governors: 10
* Presidential appointees: 5

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told AFP that MP-elects Shuwa Mudiwa and Eliah Jembere had been detained.

"We have been informed they want to arrest 15 MPs. It's all about the vote for the speaker. Nothing to do with the law."

Mr Mudiwa was later released and was sworn in but not Mr Jembere.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said Mr Jembere was wanted on rape charges, while Mr Mudiwa had been questioned over alleged political violence.

He said that police wanted to question eight MPs, reports the AFP news agency.

Ahead of Monday's swearing-in, Mr Mugabe appointed three non-constituency members of parliament's upper house, the Senate, and eight provincial governors, state media said.

"Clearly they have chosen the path of arrogance, unilateralism that's a serious blow to confidence-building in the talks," Mr Chamisa told Reuters.

Zanu-PF has the most seats in the Senate and Mr Mugabe has the power to appoint a further 15 members, along with 18 traditional chiefs, seen as pro-Zanu-PF.

The South Africans-mediated talks are stalled over how powers should be divided between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai, who could be named to fill the new post of prime minister.

The opening of parliament in Harare comes with the blessing of the regional body, the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Mr Tsvangirai won the first presidential round in March, before pulling out of a June run-off citing a campaign of violence against his supporters.

The economy continues to deteriorate, with the latest figures, showing annual inflation of 11m% - by far the highest in the world.

Foreign donors will only agree a rescue package if power-sharing talks are finalised.


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