MDC may pull out of Zimbabwe election

Friday, June 20, 2008

According to party officials, Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will announce Monday, June 23, whether they will pull out of the 2008 presidential election, due to election violence, or stay in the race.

This week alone, at least five MDC activists or their family members have been killed in election violence. The MDC's secretary general, Tendai Biti, was charged with subversion and treason. The case has been delayed until July 7, more than a week after the run-off election on June 27. The charges carry a possible death sentence, but he could still be granted bail.

The MDC has said that during the run-off elections, at least 70 of its supporters were killed, and over 25,000 have been evicted from their homes in a campaign of violence endorsed by President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe, however, has blamed the MDC for the violence.

Mugabe has repeatedly said that he would not allow the MDC to come into power. "The MDC will never be allowed to rule this country -- never ever," Mugabe said on Friday. "Only God who appointed me will remove me - not the MDC, not the British," he added, referring to the accusation that his election opponent Morgan Tsvangirai is a puppet of former colonial power Britain.

"In the light of the violence and intimidation, we will make a position whether we still feel the people's will will be realised, whether it's conducive to go into an election," said MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa. Some party members are split over the issue. Innocent Gonese, the MDC's secretary for legal affairs, said, "People are saying despite all that we should not withdraw and we also believe withdrawing will not solve anything."

Nelson Chamisa said the party needs to assess the situation before deciding their next move, as some areas are inaccessible. "Our grass-roots activists are being subjected to terror," Chamisa said. "Some of them are staying in the bushes and mountains to avoid Zanu-PF militias. Unless there's a change in conditions on the ground, the election will be a charade."