Stunning blow for Mugabe following Tsvangirai's man being elected Speaker

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London, Aug 26 : A MP from Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change was elected as Speaker of Parliament, giving a major blow to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's attempts to hold on to power.

In a stunning upset Lovemore Moyo, chairman of Tsvangirai's MDC faction, defeated Paul Themba Nyathi, of the smaller MDC grouping led by Arthur Mutambara, by 110 votes to 98.

Mugabe's Zanu-PF party did not put up a candidate itself, instead ordering its newly sworn-in MPs to support the Mutambara faction's man. Mugabe will undoubtedly have been infuriated by the result, The Telegraph reported.

The indications are that Mugabe had been hoping to engineer a deal with Mutambara's faction to exclude Tsvangirai from a government of national unity, and that enough of its MPs would support the government in parliament to enable it to function. n Zimbabwean politics the speakership is a powerful role, with the ability to determine parliament's agenda, and the octogenarian leader now faces the prospect of having to deal with a lower house fully controlled by his opponents if he decides to abandon the deadlocked negotiations being brokered by the South African president Thabo Mbeki and form a government of his own.

"Whatever game plan Mugabe had has been complicated and this greatly diminishes his capacity to form a cabinet and govern," said Eldred Masunungure, professor of politics at the University of Zimbabwe.

"Mugabe is seriously weakened and he and Zanu-PF will have to take the negotiations more seriously," he added.

In the parliamentary poll earlier this year, Tsvangirai's MDC took 100 seats, Mutambara's 10, and Zanu-PF 99, with one independent.

It was the first time Zanu-PF had lost its majority since independence in 1980.

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