HARARE, Zimbabwe – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party regained the disputed parliament speaker's post in a bitterly fought ballot by lawmakers late Tuesday as state prosecutors earlier defied a court order to free on bail a close Tsvangirai ally that barred him from the vote.
Parliament officials said Tsvangirai party chairman Lovemore Moyo received 105 votes, against 93 ballots for Simon Khaya Moyo of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
Results of the secret ballot were met with dancing and singing by Tsvangirai's lawmakers after the ballot was delayed for two hours in a procedural dispute over the eligibility of candidates.
The two main parties in a troubled coalition formed after disputed, violence plagued elections in 2008 hold an almost equal number of seats in the 210-seat legislature after several lawmakers have died since the last poll. A small splinter group of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change holds just eight seats and pledged it would not support Mugabe's party.
Earlier Tuesday, state prosecutors refused to release on bail Energy Minister Elton Mangoma, a founder of Tsvangirai's party, on allegations of corruption over energy supplies despite the Harare High Court granting him bail.
The prosecutors invoked a clause in law statutes allowing suspects to be detained for a further seven days after being granted bail as police investigations against them continue. The move, used several times this year against Tsvangirai loyalists, prevented Mangoma from casting his ballot in the crucial parliament vote.
Tsvangirai's party on Tuesday also alleged five of its lawmakers were offered bribes of up to $5,000 each to vote against its candidate, Lovemore Moyo.
In a statement, it said it was investigating allegations other lawmakers were offered land and cars to support Mugabe's party in the vote.
It said efforts were made to prevent at least four of its lawmakers from participating in the vote through arrests and attempts to "disenfranchise" them with various trumped up criminal charges.
In a campaign against the former opposition party, the state media controlled by Mugabe loyalists reported Sunday that state law officers were preparing an arrest warrant against Moyo on contempt of court charges after he criticized as biased a ruling by the Supreme Court on March 10 that deposed him, citing irregularities in his first election two years ago.
That ruling led to Tuesday's ballot.
As the nation slides deeper into political turmoil, the state media has also reported that Tsvangirai is under investigation for remarks attributed to him in U.S. diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks that could lead to criminal charges.