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Lovemore Maduku of the University of Zimbabwe
"In terms of the current constitution you only need a simple majority to govern"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 22:28 GMT 23:28 UK
What next for Mugabe?
MDC stunt
Mock funeral - but there is still life in Zanu-PF
By BBC News Online's Justin Pearce

Zimbabwe's election has returned a parliament in which President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF retains a majority - albeit a much reduced one.

Mr Mugabe has predicted the new parliament will be "very lively", and he struck a conciliatory note in his first remarks about the outcome.

It will be up to him to decide whether to hold onto the still considerable amount of power which the election result bestows on him and his party - or to engender good will by making some concessions to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Significantly, the MDC has deprived Mr Mugabe of the two-thirds parliamentary majority which he needs to push constitutional change through parliament.

The president used this to empower himself to seize white-owned farms - and also to give himself the right to appoint 20 unelected members of parliament.

Powers curbed


Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe: Could make some tactical concessions
The MDC will now be able to block important parliamentary bills such as the budget.

Hence Mr Mugabe's party will not have a free rein in parliament - if Zanu-PF wants to introduce major legislative changes, it will have to strike a deal with the MDC first.

The alternative for the president would be to use temporary decrees to override the opposition - but this would do further damage to Zimbabwe's already shaky reputation abroad.

Cabinet may stay

However, on minor legislative matters which require only a simple majority in parliament, Mr Mugabe can still do more or less what he likes.

And Zanu-PF spokesman Jonathan Moyo has emphasised that the appointment of a government remains the president's prerogative, whatever the outcome of the parliamentary vote.

Mr Mugabe is under no obligation to change the composition of his existing cabinet.

Even those ministers who have lost their parliamentary seats can stay in office if President Mugabe includes them among the 20 MPs he is entitled to appoint.

Looking ahead

But far more profound change could follow the presidential election in 2002.


Morgan Tsvangirai
Morgan Tsvangirai: Intends to run for president in 2002
Mr Tsvangirai - who was not elected to parliament - has already announced his intention to stand for the presidency.

Early indications are that the MDC polled more votes than Zanu-PF, but these translated into a slightly smaller number of seats because of the greater weighting given to rural constituencies.

This suggests that Mr Tsvangirai would be in a strong position to take the presidency.

If he succeeds, and exercises the presidential prerogative to appoint 20 MPs, the MDC would then enjoy a parliamentary advantage.

Compromise?

Some commentators have suggested, though, that Mr Mugabe might have another plan in the making.

However heavy-handed his actions may appear to outsiders, the president remains an astute politician - and he knows that it would be better to be remembered as a statesman who forged reconciliation than as someone who staked his reputation on a party whose fortunes were already in decline.

The election result also confirms Mr Mugabe's extreme unpopularity in the cities.

The MDC's links with trade unions make it capable of mobilising large-scale protest on the doorstep of parliament in Harare - all the more reason why the president might consider it expedient to offer a hand of friendship to his opponents.

This could give Mr Mugabe a smoother ride during his last two years in office - and even improve the electoral chances of whomever he decides to name as his preferred heir.

But Mr Tsvangirai has already pre-empted any talk of a deal by saying he will not accept a position in a power-sharing government - apparently aware of the political dangers of collaborating with a president who will, in any event, have the final say over how the country is run in the next two years.

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See also:

24 Jun 00 | Africa
High turnout in Zimbabwe poll
25 Jun 00 | Africa
Eyewitness: Change in the air
23 Jun 00 | Africa
Dilemma of the fearful voter
27 Jun 00 | Africa
Close win for Mugabe's party
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