Zimbabwe's MDC seeks new vote if talks fail

By MacDonald Dzirutwe

HARARE, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's main opposition party said on Tuesday that only fresh elections would resolve a dispute over who controls key cabinet posts, a make-or-break issue under a power-sharing pact signed with President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, have clashed over control of ministries and weeks of face-to-face talks have failed to break the deadlock.

The political impasse has raised fears that last month's power-sharing deal may collapse and plunge Zimbabwe's economy deeper into crisis.

"The preferred trajectory is to conclude the negotiations, but in the absence of the ideal, Zimbabweans have no other way out but to decide who should have power through an election which is credible," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.

Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in a presidential election on March 29 but with too few votes to avoid a June run-off, which was won by Mugabe unopposed after Tsvangirai pulled out, saying his supporters had been subjected to violence and intimidation.

Chamisa said there was lack of trust between Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the MDC, which was reflected by the government's failure to issue Tsvangirai a new passport after he filled up his old one several months ago.

Tsvangirai failed to attend a regional emergency summit in Swaziland on Monday after authorities only gave him an emergency travel document.

Monday's meeting, called by the Southern African Development Community, a 15-nation regional body, to seek a breakthrough in efforts to form a joint cabinet, was postponed until Oct. 27. It will take place in Harare.

ZANU-PF chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa on Tuesday accused Tsvangirai of stalling on the Sept. 15 power-sharing deal.

"Tsvangirai's failure to come to Swaziland seems to us to reflect his own reluctance or hesitancy to finalise and conclude discussions on the formation of an inclusive government," Chinamasa told the state-owned Herald newspaper.

In an editorial, the Herald urged Mugabe to form a cabinet without Tsvangirai, adding that the MDC leader should renounce Western sanctions before being issued a new passport.

The MDC said on Tuesday that Tsvangirai would address "report back" rallies in Zimbabwe over the weekend to update supporters on developments since the deal was signed.

Tsvangirai has accused ZANU-PF, which lost a parliamentary election in March, of trying to seize the most important ministries and relegate the MDC to the role of junior partner in a new government.

The cabinet talks are seen as critical to solving Zimbabwe's economic meltdown. Inflation has hit 231 million percent in a country suffering acute shortages of food, fuel and currency.

Millions of Zimbabweans have fled the country in search of food and work in neighbouring nations, especially South Africa.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)


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