Mugabe's Rival Exits Race, Calls Runoff a Sham Zimbabwe's opposition leader has withdrawn from the country's presidential runoff election, saying the loss of life among his supporters is too high a price to pay. Morgan Tsvangirai says President Robert Mugabe has run a violent, illegitimate election. Tsvangirai's withdrawal spurred reaction from African leaders and the United Nations.

Mugabe's Rival Exits Race, Calls Runoff a Sham

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Steve Inskeep is on vacation. I'm Ari Shapiro.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Zimbabwe's opposition leader has withdrawn from that country's presidential runoff election. Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Change, or MDC, says he's willing to negotiate with the government, but he blames President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party for creating what he calls, quote, "a violent, illegitimate sham of an election process." Mr. Tsvangirai joined us to talk about that. Good morning.

Mr. MORGAN TSVANGIRAI (Leader, Movement for a Democratic Change, Zimbabwe): Hello.

MONTAGNE: Now your supporters have been killed in great numbers - dozens. They've been beaten. They've been arrested. You have also been detained on a number of occasions. Why drop out now when so many have paid such a price and the election is so close?

Mr. TSVANGIRAI: Well, this is not an election. Our assessment is that it will actually be the betrayal of those who have sacrificed so much to go in a so-called election when it is impossible to assess the will of the people because they've all been frog-marched into this kind of a process. So our assessment is that the MDC will do itself a lot of harm, and its supporters, if we were to legitimize by its participation at this stage.

MONTAGNE: This decision, though, to withdraw from the election, in doing this, aren't you guaranteeing that Mugabe will be declared the next president?

Mr. TSVANGIRAI: Well, there's nothing that is going to change the outcome. What he wants is to go through a process of so-called participation, and then declare himself the winner. He 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 has determined that he wants to stay in power forever and ever.

MONTAGNE: Now your withdrawal has already moved the head of the Southern African Development Community - which is a very powerful group there in Southern Africa - to challenge Mr. Mugabe and the legitimacy of this election. Is your move designed to force Zimbabwe's neighbors and the international community to take a stand - or a firmer stand, that is - to force Robert Mugabe to give up power?

Mr. TSVANGIRAI: Well, it's not about giving up power. It's about SADC taking an initiative...

MONTAGNE: SADC being the Southern African Development Community.

Mr. TSVANGIRAI: ...Community. It has placed the onus of this crisis on SADC to make sure that either the election is postponed and conducted under SADC norms and standards, or to (unintelligible) Mugabe to concede that in the first round, he has lost the election and that he must give up power. This is not about an election. This is about ambition. This is about convincing Mugabe's denial attitude that the people no longer support him.

MONTAGNE: Do you think that the Southern African Development Community will apply that kind of pressure, and do you think at this point President Mugabe is vulnerable to that pressure?

Mr. TSVANGIRAI: My assessment is that if there is a collective position by all SADC leaders, that will be sufficient pressure. That voice is essential to actually have a collective consensus as to what Mugabe's doing or not.

MONTAGNE: The US and Britain are taking this matter today before the UN Security Council. Do you think that the UN can have any influence on Mugabe, given that it has not managed to move him up to now?

Mr. TSVANGIRAI: The convening of Security Council on Zimbabwe has one outcome that we will expect. This is one - to appoint a mission to investigate the level of abuses that have taken place: rape, torture, murder and the various human rights abuse that has taken place, sanctioned and supported by the state. So I think it's very important to come out with that resolution, because that has got a direct impact on individuals in the state machinery of ZANU-PF, or else they will have to deal with the consequences of what they've done. That's number one. Number two, Security Council resolution must also forecast that the elections are null and void, and that a fresh round of elections be convened under international supervision, in order to have a legitimate outcome.

MONTAGNE: Do you think that your supporters will go to polls this coming Friday if you have withdrawn?

Mr. TSVANGIRAI: They will not. They will not go to the election. Besides, there will be no election. I'm proceeding formally on Wednesday to withdraw my candidature and to say to ZANU-PF they have failed to conduct an election, and therefore Mugabe cannot be declared or sworn in as president because he never won an election.

MONTAGNE: Although that is what Mugabe's government says will happen exactly, that if you withdraw, as they put it, chicken out...

Mr. TSVANGIRAI: will be illegitimate. As ZANU-PF in the past, they have no respect for the law, and it will further demonstrate that they have total disregard of the national/international opinion.

MONTAGNE: Mr. Tsvangirai, thank you for talking with us.

Mr. TSVANGIRAI: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Morgan Tsvangirai is head of Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe. He announced he's withdrawing from this Friday's runoff for the presidential election there.

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