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Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai addresses media in Harare on June 22.
Despite a U.N. Security Council plea to postpone Friday's runoff vote and the withdrawal of Robert Mugabe's political opponent from the race, the election standoff in Zimbabwe continues.
Celia Dugger of The New York Times says the U.N.'s action is an extremely important development. "It's the first time the world has really stood up and said, 'Mugabe, you are not the legitimate leader of the country anymore.' "
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai sought refuge at the Dutch embassy in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, because of fears for his own safety amid ever increasing violence. His chief of staff has been jailed, and his closest aide was forced to leave the country.
"By entering this race that he never really believed he could win," Dugger says, Tsvangirai has "revealed the ugly face of the Mugabe regime." She says that Tsvangirai's supporters believed the violence would wane once international election observers arrived, but that was not the case; the violence increased. "Some of the election observers even witnessed murder happening before their eyes," she says.
Militia groups incited by Mugabe's ruling party, but "not completely under anyone's control," are responsible for the violence and intimidation, says Dugger. It's all aimed, she says, at keeping Mugabe in power. He's said at rallies that only God would remove him from office.
Zimbabwe has an inflation rate that some economists have estimated surpasses an unimaginable 2 million percent. Eighty percent of the population is unemployed. Dugger says that no change will come unless other countries in the region put pressure on Zimbabwe to change, but she says it's not clear whether that will happen.
Dugger doesn't know whether Mugabe's intransigence will win out, or whether the U.N.'s plea will make a difference. "Mugabe doesn't seem to care much for what the world thinks. He seems to have a messianic view of his rule in Zimbabwe," she says. "And he seems willing to take the country down with him."