Zimbabwe's opposition leader has withdrawn from the country's presidential runoff election. Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change says he is willing to negotiate with the government, but he blames President Robert Mugabe and his ruling party for creating a "violent, illegitimate sham of an election process." He says he is stepping down because the loss of life among his supporters is too high a price to pay.
"[Mugabe] has already declared that he will not accept the opposition victory, he is not going to hand over power, and that he is going to go to war if he lost. So, under those circumstances, Mugabe is determined that he wants to stay in power forever and ever," Tsvangirai tells NPR's Renee Montagne.
He says he'll move formally Wednesday to withdraw his candidacy in Friday's runoff election. Meantime, he reportedly took refuge Monday in the Dutch Embassy in Harare but had not requested asylum.
Tsvangirai's withdrawal moved the head of the Southern African Development Community to challenge Mugabe and the legitimacy of the election. Tsvangirai says he was gratified by the SADC president's expression of disgust at Mugabe's intolerance.
"My assessment is that if there is a collective position by all SADC leaders, that will be sufficient pressure" to ensure that the election is postponed and conducted according to SADC standards, or that Mugabe will be forced to concede, Tsvangirai says.
Tsvangirai is calling for a United Nations resolution to investigate abuses in Zimbabwe, to declare the election void and to reconvene a first round of the election under international supervision. The U.S. and Britain have said they plan to bring Zimbabwe's crisis before the U.N. Security Council.