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Mugabe defies UN, presses on with runoff vote

Latest update : 2008-06-25

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe defied mounting pressure to call off the June 27 vote, declaring, “the West can scream all it wants. Elections will go on.” (Report: A. Singh)

Hear Zimbabwe's grim inside story from FRANCE 24 correspondents A. Duval Smith and E. Jongwe in their report 'Trapped in a Harare nightmare'.



Despite the UN Security-Council’s calls to postpone the June 27 vote, Zimbabwean authorities Tuesday pressed on with preparations for the presidential run-off elections.

Heedless of the international outcry, the spokesperson of the country’s Electoral Commission (ZEC) said preparations for the election had reached “an advanced state”. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s regime also claimed it had received no official notification of the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s withdrawal from the contest.


For his part, the head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said he was comforted by the international community’s firm standpoint on the matter. The UN has no other option but to recommend postponing the vote, said Tsvangirai, since organising a poll “in the present conditions” is simply “impossible”.


In an interview with the AFP, the opposition leader suggested he may leave the Dutch embassy, where he sought refuge on Monday, “in the next couple of days”.


Tsvangirai reluctantly bowed out of the presidential contest on Sunday, saying he could not ask his supporters to cast their ballots “when that vote would cost them their lives.” Shortly later, the fiery former trade union leader sought shelter at the Dutch embassy in Harare.


As international pressure mounts on the Zimbabwean regime, a defiant Robert Mugabe is heading for an election widely regarded as unfair.


On Monday, the 15-member UN Security-Council members unanimously accused the Zimbabwean government of blocking the electoral campaign and inflicting violence on the opposition, thus making “free and fair” elections “impossible”.


South Africa: key to the crisis?


The UN condemnation is the result of a compromise secured after difficult negotiations. Security Council members initially wanted the text to state that, if the second round was cancelled, the results of the first round would stand. However, the group, which notably includes South Africa and China, decided to limit the declaration to a request to postpone the elections.

Although the Security-Council’s unanimous condemnation was a first, it is unlikely to stop the government from holding elections at the given date, according to FRANCE 24’s South Africa correspondent, Caroline Dumay.

For Philippe Bolopion, FRANCE 24’s correspondent at the UN in New York, the last hope for putting pressure on Mugabe’s regime lies with South Africa. “Without any doubt, the key lies in South Africa’s position,” he says. “President Thabo Mbeki has been supporting Mugabe’s regime, but the winds are maybe about to change.”


With Mbeki yet to take a stand on the matter, his successor at the head of the ruling ANC party, Jacob Zuma, has decided to break the silence. Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, the likely future head of the country took a swipe at Mugabe’s regime. “The situation in Zimbabwe is escaping all control. We cannot agree with what (Mugabe’s) ZANU-PF party is doing at present,” he said. Zuma also called on the United Nations and the regional South African Development Community (SADC) to step in “immediately”.

Date created : 2008-06-24