Conflicting Reports on Tsvangirai Quitting Zimbabwe RunoffBy VOA News
20 June 2008
Morgan Tsvangirai in Harare, 19 Jun 2008
There are conflicting reports Friday on whether Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is considering pulling out of next week's presidential runoff election.
Reuters news agency quotes a spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Nelson Chamisa as saying the party has received an "avalanche" of calls from supporters to withdraw, and will make a decision on Monday.
But other news reports said Mr. Tsvangirai sent an e-mail to supporters Friday urging them to vote in the June 27 election and end what he called the evil regime of President Robert Mugabe.
The MDC says Mugabe supporters are conducting a campaign of violence and terror ahead of the vote in hopes of securing victory. The party says more than 70 of its supporters have been killed.
The president and his supporters reject those accusations. Friday, Zimbabwe's police chief, Augustine Chihuri, said the MDC was what he termed the "main culprit" in violence.
Chihuri said police have arrested 390 MDC supporters and 156 members of the ruling ZANU-PF party since the initial presidential election March 29.
Earlier Friday, a Zimbabwean judge refused to release the MDC's number two official, Tendai Biti, who has been charged with treason and other offenses. He has been detained since June 12.
In Brussels, the European Union threatened to issue new sanctions on those deemed responsible for the pre-runoff violence. The EU already has a travel ban on President Mugabe and members of his government who are accused of human rights violations.
Mr. Tsvangirai claimed victory in the initial presidential election on March 29. However, official results showed him falling short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.
Britain, the United States, and numerous human rights groups blame the recent violence on Mr. Mugabe's supporters, and have expressed strong doubts about the fairness of the election. A growing number of African leaders have also said they do not expect a fair vote next Friday.