The leader of Zimbabwe?s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says his party may boycott this year?s elections, which he described as predetermined by President Robert Mugabe led ZANU-PF government. Morgan Tsvangirai was reacting to Mugabe?s recent statement suggesting that the March general elections would go ahead with or without the participation of the MDC. He says the MDC would only be part of the elections if there is a new constitution which would guarantee a free, fair and credible vote.

Tsvangirai adds that the South African Development Community-backed (SADC) negotiations between the government and the MDC are at a deadlock with no compromise in sight. The talks are aimed at resolving the country?s economic and political crisis, which has been described as causing untold hardships to ordinary Zimbabweans. Morgan Tsvangirai is the leader of the opposition MDC. From the capital Harare, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that Mugabe?s outburst is regrettable.

?So far there is no indication, given Mugabe?s statement, that he would go ahead on the March elections regardless of whoever participates, regardless of the conditions. There is no basis for us to have a free and fair election if Mugabe proceeds on that particular statement. So clearly, it is obvious that unless the conditions are acceptable to the MDC and all the other players in the contest, the outcome would be contestable. That was the contest in which I was making that statement,? Tsvangirai pointed out.

He said boycotting March?s elections is one of the minor options for challenging President Mugabe?s rule.

?For the last eight years we have gone into three major elections, all of which have been rigged. So as far as we are concerned the election avenue is being blocked by Mugabe. At the same time, we are a peaceful organization committed to democratic process. And therefore we cannot think about any other option of peacefully removing an unacceptable government or unpopular government other than through elections. And therefore, as far as we are concerned, the only way in which Zimbabweans are able to remove a dictatorship is through a free and fair election, and we insist on that,? he said.

Tsvangirai reckons that Zimbabweans would be robbed of their rights if the MDC boycotts March elections.

?We have gone through this ritual for the last three major elections, and we have not been able to remove Mugabe because he is denying them the opportunity of removing that government. It?s one thing to have the popular vote of the people. It?s another thing to win the change that everyone expects. So, we are not going into an election to satisfy Robert Mugabe. We are going into the election so that the will of the people is respected,? Tsvangirai noted.

He adds that the president?s position towards free and fair elections is questionable.

?His (Mugabe) attitude is to continue to defend power at any cost, and it is immaterial and suicidal,? he stated.

Tsvangirai condemns the ruling party?s assertion that the new constitutions should only be implemented after the general elections in March.

?It is outrageous that the constitution was one of the critical agenda items agreed at the first opening of the negotiations. And it took some time before ZANU-PF could actually have discussion around the constitutional amendment. We all know that the constitutional discussions are the bases of the conflict in the country because it sets in place the institutional mechanism for running a free and fair election. Now, what ZANU-PF is doing is actually to say that what we have done over the last eight months is immaterial, and therefore it is a clear vote of no confidence in the SADC process,? Tsvangirai noted.

He said the MDC decided to negotiate with the government with the hopes of having free, fair and credible elections in March.

?We cannot have a constitution after the elections. The purpose of which we agreed to discuss these constitutional proposals was to actually lay the groundwork for a free and fair election based on the transitional constitution. Now, to say that we will have the constitution after the elections is a fait acompli we are not going to accept,? he maintained.