The leader of Zimbabwe?s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says he is sure of the party?s victory in next month?s general elections. Morgan Tsvangirai said Zimbabweans desperately want change, but he fears the ruling ZANU-PF party led by incumbent President Robert Mugabe may rig the elections to maintain power. John Makumbe is a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe. From the capital, Harare he tells reporter Peter Clottey that the MDC has no choice but to participate in next month?s general elections.

?That?s a correct perspective. Under the current constitution, ZANU-PF is going to rig the election; there is no two ways about it. Mr. Mugabe is desperate to stay in power and in office. And the current constitution creates a very uneven political field, which favors only ZANU-PF,? Makumbe said.

He described as strategic Tsvangirai?s intentions to be part of the general elections.

?I think it?s a tactical maneuver by Tsvangirai. To boycott this election would have given ZANU-PF a free ride. And it would have surrender to ZANU-PF a lot of the democratic space that the MDC has reclaimed from the ZANU-PF over the past few elections, and it would be shortchanging the people of Zimbabwe. Really, political parties are there to contest elections and to seek to enter into office into power and run the country. And Morgan Tsvangirai?s party must continue to do that come rain come sunshine,? he said.

Makumbe concurs that the presence of other political figures in next month?s elections might have played a major role on the MDC?s decision to participate in the vote after previously threatening to boycott the elections.

?Yes, essentially, Tsvangirai cannot boycott the elections now with Arthur Mutembara (leader of one faction of the MDC) faction running for this elections and then you have the wild card of Simba Makoni also creating confusion, which at the moment nobody knows will result in which consequence,? Makumbe noted.

He said the decision of Makoni, a former ally of President Mugabe to contest the election as an independent presidential candidate could make things difficult for the ruling ZANU-PF party.

?For example the Simba Makoni factor may in fact ruin Robert Mugabe?s chances of winning or it may again simply be an extra job for Mugabe. But he will rig the election in such a way that nobody else gets in. so, it?s an interesting situation where Morgan Tsvangirai would have actually shortchanged himself severely by not participating,? he noted.