HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party is one seat away from losing its majority in parliament, threatening what little power his Movement for Democratic Change has in this shaky coalition government.
Five MDC lawmakers -- all convicted for instigating violence after last year's presidential election -- have been jailed in the five months since Mr. Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe agreed to form a coalition government. Members of parliament sentenced to more than six months in jail are required to step down unless their sentence is overturned on appeal.
The MDC has accused Mr. Mugabe's party of politically motivated trials aimed at eroding the party majority. That would consolidate the president's power, and allow him to pass laws or block legislation without consulting Mr. Tsvangirai's party.
In addition to the five already convicted, 16 more MDC legislators, including Finance Minister Tendai Biti, have cases pending before the courts. Mr. Biti faces treason charges, while others are accused of political violence. All deny the charges.No one from Mr. Mugabe's party has been prosecuted for violence that raged last year before the presidential election