Zimbabwe's opposition accused President Robert Mugabe of abandoning talks aimed at forming a unity government, and said Wednesday he would fail if he tried to rule alone.
State media said Mugabe had announced Tuesday he was soon to form a new Cabinet after concluding the opposition Movement for Democratic Change did not want to take part. Coalition negotiations have been deadlocked over how much control Mugabe should surrender.
Opposition spokesman Nelson Chamisa said Wednesday the Movement for Democratic Change remained committed to power-sharing talks, but accused Mugabe of "giving a death certificate ... to the talks and negotiations."
"The bottom line is he has to come to the negotiating table and negotiate with the MDC as representatives of the people of the country to find a way forward," Chamisa said.
Among recent steps Mugabe has taken that the opposition says undermine negotiations was the appointment of his loyalists as senators and governors. The opposition also says Mugabe should not have unilaterally convened parliament on Tuesday, and accuses him of ordering the arrests of its members to try to regain a parliamentary majority. Police have arrested five opposition lawmakers allegedly linked to political violence.
While the Movement for Democratic Change says Mugabe had no authority to open parliament, the MDC holds the most seats in the house and its members participated in the opening session — subjecting Mugabe to unprecedented heckling on national television.
Mugabe, addressing guests at a luncheon after opening parliament, said he planned to announce a new Cabinet. The opposition would be welcome to join if it wished, but it "does not want to come in apparently," the Herald, a government newspaper, quoted Mugabe as saying.
"They have been promised by the British that sanctions would be more devastating and that in six months time the government will collapse. I do not know when that day will come. I wish (main opposition leader Morgan) Tsvangirai well on that day," Mugabe said.
Chamisa, the Movement for Democratic Change spokesman, said his party had hoped Mugabe "would be fair enough and reasonable enough" to stick with power-sharing negotiations.
"But unfortunately he is a driver who is so determined to crash the vehicle. He's trying to take us into a ditch."
Chamisa said that if Mugabe unilaterally appointed a Cabinet, opposition lawmakers would simply ignore any attempts it made to introduce legislation. Parliament, which was to reconvene to begin work in October, in the past simply rubber-stamped sweeping legislation drawn up by Mugabe's party.
Parliament's first order of business will be to approve funds for government ministries and projects.
If there is deadlock, Mugabe could dissolve the assembly and rule by decree. It is unlikely the opposition could summon the two-thirds vote needed to impeach him.
Tsvangirai's party holds 100 seats in the 210 seat parliament, Mugabe's party has 99, and an opposition splinter group has 10. An independent who broke away from Mugabe's party won the remaining seat in parliamentary polls on March 29.
Tsvangirai beat Mugabe and two other candidates in presidential elections held alongside the legislative balloting, but did not gain the simple majority needed to avoid a runoff. Mugabe held the one-man runoff after a campaign of violence against the opposition and declared himself victor despite Western condemnation.
The opposition blames Zimbabwe's crisis on Mugabe's increasingly autocratic and corrupt rule. Zimbabwe began unraveling after Mugabe in 2000 ordered the often-violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms that disrupted the agriculture-based economy. Many of the farms went to Cabinet ministers, generals and Mugabe loyalists who let them lie fallow, destroying the country's economic base.
Mugabe has repeatedly blamed his country's woes on European and U.S. sanctions.
More than a third of Zimbabweans depend of foreign food aid but Mugabe has barred charities from handing out the food, charging they were favoring opposition supporters. Opposition legislators on Tuesday called on Mugabe to honor his agreement to allow food to be distributed, signed as a prerequisite for the power-sharing talks.