Saturday, June 28, 2008


Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has pulled out of Friday's presidential election run-off, saying he does not want to risk more of his supporters losing their lives.
The first round in March was relatively peaceful but the mood has changed since then. Mr Tsvangirai gained more votes than Mr Mugabe, and the opposition says its supporters have subsequently been targeted, assaulted and killed in a bid to ensure the president remains in power.
Why did Tsvangirai pull out?
Firstly to save the lives of his supporters.
Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says that more than 80 of its supporters have been killed and 200,000 displaced in a state-sponsored campaign of violence designed to prevent it repeating its first-round victory.
He fears that the violence would only increase in the final days of the campaign.
Secondly, he says he does not want to be part of an illegitimate process.
Mr Mugabe has said "only God" can remove him, so what is the point of going through the motions?
So what happens next?
Mr Mugabe and the authorities insist that the election is still going ahead as normal.
The head of the electoral commission said Mr Tsvangirai withdrew too late to cancel the elections.
There have been reports of people being forced to vote - to try and make turnout as high as possible.
Mr Mugabe will no doubt proclaim victory and try to carry on as normal.
But Mr Tsvangirai will be hoping that the international community, in particular Zimbabwe's neighbours, will increase pressure on Mr Mugabe to step down, or at least form a government of national unity.
South Africa and China are the countries with the most influence, by helping to keep Zimbabwe's moribund economy afloat.
South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has been trying to mediate in the political crisis but has so far refused to criticise Mr Mugabe in public.
Some other African leaders have, however, started to break ranks, showing that Mr Mugabe's claims to be fighting for African nationalism against colonialism may be wearing thin.
He may have to take notice if Africa's regional institutions, such as the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the African Union (AU), refused to accept him as Zimbabwe's leader.
But he has ignored calls from Sadc leaders to postpone the run-off, after their observers witnessed the violence first-hand.
Would the run-off have been free and fair?
It didn't look like it.
There are numerous, credible reports that opposition activists have been assaulted and some killed by ruling party militants.
Mr Tsvangirai says MDC structures have been systematically targeted in some parts of the country - starting in rural areas which have switched away from Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and then coming to Harare.
The MDC says the results of the first-round were deliberately delayed for several weeks to give ruling party militants time to carry out these attacks.
By the end, he says he was denied access to three-quarters of the country.
The MDC was also prevented from holding rallies, while its adverts were banned from state media, in contrast to the first round on 29 March.
Mr Tsvangirai was detained on several occasions and MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti has been charged with treason.
Election observers and officials were also targeted for beatings.
The MDC says that Zanu-PF militants were being recruited as polling agents for the run-off, to ensure Mr Mugabe would win.
Zanu-PF, however, denies this, saying Mr Tsvangirai pulled out because he would lose.
It says the scale of the violence has been exaggerated and accuses the MDC of being behind some attacks.
Who would have won the run-off?
Mr Tsvangirai gained most votes in the first round, so he started the campaign favourite.
President Mugabe has been in power in Zimbabwe since 1980, and so many Zimbabweans cannot imagine another leader.
His first round defeat damaged this aura of invincibility, and this could have led more people to vote against him.
But the difference between the two men in the first round was only 120,000 votes, according to the official results.
What happened in the first round?
The 29 March elections were the most peaceful since the MDC emerged to challenge Mr Mugabe in 1999.
Opposition candidates were able to campaign around the country, even in previously no-go areas - although this has since changed.

It is not clear if the first round results were tampered with. The MDC said Mr Tsvangirai gained 50.3% - not a massive difference from the official tally of 47.9%, but a crucial one.
Projections by independent monitors were pretty close to the official results, which show that Mr Mugabe gained 43.2%.
However, one MDC official says he has doubts about a block of 120,000 votes for Mr Mugabe, which he says were enough to prevent Mr Tsvangirai winning outright.
Before polling, MDC complained about the electoral roll, saying there were many thousands of "ghost voters".
These are the names of dead people or people who have registered from addresses where there are no buildings.
It was not possible to update the roll in time for the run-off, so the "ghost voters" could have emerged as an issue again.
What happened in the other elections?
Election officials say the long delay in publishing the results of the presidential poll was because four elections - presidential, House of Assembly, Senate and local councils - were held on the same day.

Senate results:
Zanu-PF: 30
MDC: 24
MDC breakaway: 6
Source: ZEC

In the House of Assembly, President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party lost its majority for the first time since independence in 1980, with 97 seats against the MDC's 90 in the 210-seat chamber. The smaller MDC faction won 10 seats.
In the Senate, Zanu-PF and the combined opposition have 30 seats each.
How significant is the parliamentary result?
It is significant, as it loosens the ruling party's hold on power - but the presidency is a far more powerful institution.
The president can veto any legislation passed by parliament and can rule by decree in some instances.
So, if Mr Mugabe is proclaimed the victor, he would be badly weakened but still be the most powerful figure in Zimbabwe.



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