Sunday, June 22, 2008

Zimbabwe News Bulletin: Western-backed Opposition Announces Withdrawal From June 27 Run-off Poll

Tsvangirai quits violence-plagued election

Jun 22 2008 13:57

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew on Sunday from the June 27 presidential run-off election, citing political violence and an unfair poll that would favour President Robert Mugabe.

"We in the MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] cannot ask them to cast their vote on the 27th when that vote would cost them their lives," he told reporters in Harare. "We will no longer participate in this violent, illegitimate sham of an election process."

He urged the United Nations, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to intervene to prevent "genocide", and said a free and fair election would be "impossible" in Zimbabwe.

The opposition chief said Mugabe had "declared war by saying that the bullet has replaced the ballot", adding: "We believe an election that reflects the will of the people is impossible."

Tsvangirai, who beat Mugabe in a March 29 vote but failed to win the absolute majority needed to avoid a second ballot, has already been detained by police five times while campaigning. He said 86 MDC supporters have been killed and 200 000 displaced from their homes in pre-election strife.

The MDC leader also said that South African President Thabo Mbeki had made no proposal to him about a national unity government that could have lifted Zimbabwe out of its crisis. "You can't say President Mbeki is going to propose a government of national unity when it has not been put to us," he said.

The MDC earlier said that youth militia loyal to Mugabe had attacked an MDC rally in Harare on Sunday, beating journalists and forcing election observers to flee.

"Thousands of Zanu-PF youth militia, armed with iron bars, sticks and other weapons, have attacked journalists and forced election observer teams to flee from the venue of the MDC scheduled rally. Police are firing tear gas," the MDC said in a statement.

It was not clear whether Tsvangirai himself had arrived at the rally when the violence apparently erupted. Police had banned the rally, which was to be the highlight of Tsvangirai's stormy election campaign, but the High Court in Harare on Saturday overturned the police ban.

After Tsvangirai's announcement on Sunday, South Africa urged the MDC to continue with talks to find a solution to the political problems in that country.

"We are very encouraged that Mr Tsvangirai himself says he is not closing the door completely on negotiations," said Mukoni Ratshitanga, spokesperson for Mbeki, who is mediating between Zimbabwe's opposition and Mugabe.

Mugabe (84) is fighting to cling on to power in the country he has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980. Once prosperous, its economy is now ruined and millions have fled the political and economic crisis to neighbouring states.

He has blamed the political violence on the opposition and denies security forces were responsible for brutality.

Main developments since presidential, parliamentary and local elections on March 29

March 30
MDC claims victory based on early results.

March 31
Results of parliamentary ballot start to emerge. Regional observers say vote was fair but express concern over delay to results. Western countries also concerned at delay.

April 2
Final parliamentary election results show Zanu-PF has lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence in 1980. The MDC says Tsvangirai also won a presidential election and calls on Mugabe to concede. State-owned paper the Herald says no candidate won an outright majority.

April 13
Regional leaders at a summit in Zambia call for the rapid verification and release of poll results.

April 14
High Court rejects an opposition request to force authorities to release the presidential election results.

April 15
An opposition general strike to demand the release of results flops.

April 26
Mugabe's party fails to reverse its parliamentary election defeat after a partial vote recount.

May 2
Electoral body says Tsvangirai won most votes in the presidential election, but not enough to avoid a run-off against Mugabe. Opposition rejects the result.

May 10
Tsvangirai says he will return home to Zimbabwe to contest the run-off even though he believes we won outright.

May 16
Run-off is set for June 27.

May 19
Opposition accuses military intelligence agents of a plot to kill Tsvangirai, forcing him to postpone his return to the country. The government dismisses the plot as a propaganda stunt.

May 24
Tsvangirai returns to Zimbabwe and says Mugabe wants to decimate opposition structures before the run-off.

May 29
Mugabe says his government has bought 600 000 tonnes of maize to ease food shortages.

June 3
Zimbabwe has ordered Care International to suspend its operations after accusing it of political interference.

June 4
Police release Tsvangirai after holding him for more than eight hours while he was campaigning for the June 27 election run-off.

June 5
Police detain United States and British diplomats after halting their convoy in Bindura, north of Harare. Their cars were damaged and the diplomats were detained for several hours.

June 12
Zimbabwe police arrest MDC secretary general Tendai Biti. Police say he will be charged with treason and could face the death penalty.

June 22
Tsvangirai says he is pulling out of the run-off.

(Source: Reuters)
Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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