Zimbabwe: Power-sharing talks end in stalemate

Southern African leaders push for a resolution to the crisis fearing, region-wide consequences.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party, failed to reach a power-sharing deal Sunday at a conference of southern African leaders in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Chief mediator Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa, and others were hopeful that a deal would be reached to help stem political instability in Zimbabwe since the crisis there is having economic and humanitarian consequences across the region.

According to the BBC, the talks stalled because Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai could not agree on the exact details of how power would be shared in a national unity government. Tsvangirai, who is slated to take up a prime ministerial role, reportedly requires that the cabinet be answerable to him alone.

According to the news website All Africa, negotiations were somewhat fruitful and the governing party and opposition have a good basis for the progress of talks after this weekend's conference.

The BBC adds that Mr. Mbeki has said that the talks will continue and that the secretary-general of the MDC believes a deal with Mugabe's Zanu-PF party would be reached "very soon."

According to Reuters, regional leaders are invested in resolving the political stalemate because violence, economic decline, and the shortage of basic goods have caused millions of Zimbabweans to flee to neighboring countries. Despite the consensus on the urgency of the crisis in Zimbabwe, the report adds, some African leaders have a clear preference as to how power should be shared between the two main political parties.

The New York Times also reports that regional leaders are trying to influence the outcome of the power-sharing talks.

The London-based daily The Independent reports that the failure of the talks is a serious blow to South Africa's Mbeki, who assumed chairmanship of the SADC on Saturday after vowing to reach a deal during the weekend summit. Mbeki has faced criticism both at home and abroad for his handling of the crisis.

Last month, The Christian Science Monitor foreshadowed sticking points that would prevent Mugabe and Tsavangirai from reaching a power-sharing agreement.

The negotiations between Zimbabwe's political parties have been hitting stumbling blocks since they began almost three weeks ago. Last week, Reuters reported that three days of talks between Mugabe and Tsvangirai in Harare broke off without a resolution in sight.

And at the end of last month, Time magazine reported that power-sharing talks were adjourned when the MDC described as "insulting" Mugabe's proposal that Tsvangirai accept a position as one of three prime ministers for Zimbabwe.

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