Foes Heckle Mugabe in Parliament

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe's opposition heckled Robert Mugabe in an unprecedented show of defiance when the president opened the parliament Tuesday with traditional pomp and denunciations of the West.

Mugabe arrived in an open-topped vintage Rolls Royce escorted by mounted police wearing pith helmets and carrying lances. But legislators from the Movement for Democratic Change, who wrested control of the house for the first time since independence in 1980, then refused to stand when Mugabe entered, and shouted his party "is rotten!"

The jeers occasionally drowned out his 30-minute speech that was broadcast live on national television. Mugabe had to raise his voice and, looking annoyed, raced through the final lines.

Tuesday's tension may be a glimpse into a future of bitter debates and close votes once the parliament gets down to work in October.

Mugabe's ZANU-PF party had held a parliamentary majority since 1980. Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change won 100 seats in the 210-seat legislature in March elections -- though only 99 of its members were able to take the oath of office Monday, after one was arrested as he tried to enter the parliament. Mugabe's party won 99 seats in March and a splinter opposition faction won 10. An independent who broke away from Mugabe's party has the remaining seat.

In the parliament Monday, Lovemore Moyo of the Movement for Democratic Change won the race for speaker by 110 votes to 98. The ballot was secret, but Moyo apparently got votes from both parties to win a post that puts him in charge of parliament's debate and schedule and gives him the power to appoint committee chairmen.