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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Calls Election an Exercise in Mass Intimidation

Friday's presidential run-off election is taking place even though opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai has withdrawn from the vote. Authorities say his name must remain on the ballot because he failed to give adequate notice that he was dropping out of the race.

Tsvangirai spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the vote.

"Today's events are characterized as an exercise in mass intimidation and I was not surprised with the level of intimidation, especially in the rural areas. (In) the urban areas, the voter turnout was almost nothing. It was very low, which reflects really the opinion of the people that they're not going to be forced to do something they don't agree with," he says.

Tsvangirai did not venture out among the voters, saying. "No, I didn't want to give this exercise any form of legitimacy."

Asked whether he assumed President Mugabe would win today's election, even though his own name was still on the ballots, Tsvangirai says, "He's not going to win. He's going to declare himself the winner. Is this an election or is this a selection? This is a one man race, whose outcome is already known. So, declaring himself the winner doesn't make a difference."

Even if President Mugabe does declare himself the winner, Tsvangirai says it will be a "Pyrrhic victory," meaning it comes a great cost. "At the end of the day, the challenges facing this nation will look him straight in the face – the two million percent inflation, the food shortages, the humanitarian crisis, the unemployment, the poverty. Those questions cannot be resolved by a stolen election, no matter how you try to portray it," he says.

So, what's next for Tsvangirai and his MDC party? He says, "We do recognize that the election is not the answer. But a transition may be the answer to resolve the political crisis. That transition should be subject to discussion by all parties, negotiations using the March 29th election as a basis of moving forward. Because at least that was the mandate given to the people."

Tsvangirai comments further on who might lead such negotiations. "It must be African led, supported by SADC (Southern African Development Community) and the UN, whichever."

The opposition leader says, "Let's wait and see what happens, because we are actually sitting at the precipice of an unprecedented political collapse of a state. And I think that the urgency of trying to find or recoup whatever is left is urgent not only on (the ruling) ZANU-PF (party), but the rest of the country. We will wait. Now that he is going to declare himself the winner, we now want to know what he's going to do next. As far as we are concerned, we will sit back and see how he's going to solve the country's problems. If he doesn't want to negotiate, we will be happy to see what are his proposals to take the country forward," he says.