Morgan Tsvangirai is handing victory to president Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe’s oppostition leader says he is pulling out of Friday’s presidential run-off.
There was no point running the elections as they would not be free and fair and “the outcome is determined by … Mugabe himself”.
He called on the global community to step in to prevent “genocide”.
The ruling Zanu-PF said Mr Tsvangirai’s decision is just meant to avoid “humiliation” in the poll.
The opposition made this decision after its supporters came under attack as they were heading to a rally in Harare, the capital.
Some 86 supporters have been killed and 200 000 forced from their homes by ruling party militias, says the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
On Sunday, Mr Tsvangirai said, during a press conference in Harare : “We in the MDC cannot ask them to cast their vote on 27 June, when that vote could cost them their lives.”
“We have resolved that we will no longer participate in this violent, illegitimate sham of an election process.”
“We will not play the game of Mugabe”, he added.
In order to prevent a “genocide”, he called on the United Nations, African Union and the southern African grouping SADC to intervene.
Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, Zimbabwe’s information minister, told the BBC that it is because he faced “humiliation and defeat” at the hands of president Mugabe, that Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the vote. He added that the president would win “resoundingly”.
He also said that “unfortunately”, the opposition leader’s decision was “depriving the people of Zimbabwe of a vote”.
According to Martin Plaut, BBC Africa analyst, the key question now is what Thabo Mbeki (photo, from britannica.com), president of Zimbabwe’s powerful neighbour South Africa, will do.
Mr Plaut says that, since Zimbabwe is so economically dependent on South Africa, president Mbeki is in the best position to step up the pressure on Mr Mugabe.
Calling on the MDC to continue talks to try to find a political solution was the immediate response from South Africa to the news of Mr Tsvangirai leaving the race.
“We are very encouraged that Mr Tsvangirai, himself, says he is not closing the door completely on negotiations”, said a spokesman for Mr Mbeki.
The MDC was due to stage a rally in Harare on Sunday, that was supposed to be the highlight of the campaign.
But the stadium venue and roads leading up to it were occupied by supporters of Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.
‘Stop the violence now’
Witnesses reported seeing hundreds of youths around the venue wielding sticks, some chanting slogans, and others circling the stadium crammed onto the backs of trucks.
The MDC said that some set upon opposition activists, leaving a number badly injured.
The party said that African election monitors were also chased away from the rally site.
After Sunday’s developments, the United States reacted by saying : “The government of Zimbabwe and its thugs must stop the violence now.”
Mr Tsvangirai’s party says that he won the presidential election outright during the first round, in March.
Though the government admits that he won more votes that president Mugabe (photo, from ouestfrance.fr), he says that he did not take enough to win outright.
As the run-off approached, the MDC said that in recent weeks it had found campaigning nearly impossible.
They have been forced to campaign in near secrecy, as party members have been beaten and supporters of the MDC evicted from their homes.
Mr Tsvangirai was arrested several times, and Tendai Biti, the party’s secretary general, has been held and charged with treason.
Saying only God could remove him, Mr Mugabe has made it clear that he will never relinquish power, says the BBC’s Peter Biles, in Johannesburg.
BBC’s correspondant finds unclear whether the process leading to Robert Mugabe’s victory, handed by Mr Tsvangirai, will be given any legitimacy by the international community or election observers.
David Miliband, Britain’s Foreign Secretary told the BBC: “Robert Mugabe has certainly not won the election, in fact the only people who can claim that are the opposition”, which won the parliamentary vote in March.
Unless Mr Tsvangirai submitted a formal letter of withdrawal, Zimbabwean ministers said the run-off vote would go ahead.
But to Levy Mwanawasa, president of neighbouring Zambia, the run-off should be postponed in order “to avert a catastrophe in the region”.
He called on SADC to take a similar stance and said that Zimbabwe’s economic collapse was affecting the whole region.
“It’s scandalous for SADC to remain silent on Zimbabwe”, he said.
“What is happening in Zimbabwe is embarrassing to all of us.”