Harare — Zimbabwe's main opposition on Monday captured the powerful post of Speaker of Parliament, inflicting a huge blow to President Robert Mugabe who appeared determined to form the next government with a small faction of the Movement for Democratic Change.
The vote came soon after an eventful swearing-in ceremony where two opposition MPs were arrested as they entered parliament.
Mr Lovemore Moyo, the chairman of the main Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Mr Morgan Tsvangirai won 110 votes to 98.
He defeated a candidate jointly sponsored by the ruling party and the MDC faction led by Professor Arthur Mutambara, showing serious divisions in both Zanu PF and the small MDC.
Another legislator from the Prof Mutambara's Ms Nomalanga Khumalo was elected deputy speaker unopposed.
The 10 legislators from the small MDC faction defied their principals to vote along Mr Tsvangirai's group.
Before the elections the faction, which has agreed a power sharing deal with Mr Mugabe that Mr Tsvangirai refuses to sign, was viewed as a potential power broker in the hung parliament where Zanu PF has 98 seats and the main MDC has 99.
"It is difficult to say who voted for who because this was a secret ballot but one thing that is clear is that the 10 MPs from the small MDC faction did not go along with the decision of the party's caucus," said an opposition parliamentarian. "Some MPs from Zanu PF also voted for Moyo.
"This means that Mugabe can no longer bank on the 10 MDC seats because the MPs are not prepared to go along with their principals in the Mutambara camp."
Without the support of the opposition faction, Mr Mugabe is unlikely to succeed in forming a functioning government as Zimbabwe's constitution stipulates that all money bills including the budget have to originate from the House of Assembly.
Going into the elections the MDC had warned that Mr Mugabe had endangered the ongoing power sharing talks by appointing eight governors and members of the Senate.
It was envisaged that under the deal being facilitated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, the parties will share equally cabinet posts and the posts of governors.
The MDC has said it will boycott the official opening of parliament on Tuesday because it does not recognise Mr Mugabe as president.