Zimbabwe’s opposition pulls out of polls (Lead)

June 22nd, 2008 - 8:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg/Harare, June 22 (DPA) Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has decided to withdraw from the presidential run-off elections June 27, party sources said Sunday. The decision was made Sunday morning at a meeting of the pro-democracy party’s national executive in Harare, said the source, asking not to be named.

He said the decision would be announced by Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC’s leader and its candidate in the elections, later Sunday.

The MDC source gave no reason for the decision to pull out of next Friday’s runoff election, but it followed the forced abandonment Sunday of a major rally in Harare by Tsvangirai supporters which their leader had planned to address.

A mob of thousands of President Robert Mugabe ZANU(PF) party’s youth wing, armed with sticks, rocks and bricks, occupied the area around the rally’s Glamis stadium venue near the city centre and drove off MDC supporters, as well as international election of observers, journalists and passers-by.

Just before the rally was due to have started, a contingent of about 50 MDC youths clashed briefly, but were broken up by a small contingent of police firing tear gas.

The run-up to the second round of the election has been marked by an unprecedented wave of violence launched by Mugabe’s lawless militias and aided by police and soldiers, against the MDC and its supporters.

Doctors have confirmed 85 dead, while thousands have had to be treated in hospital for injuries from assault, and the MDC estimates that over 30,000 people have been drive from their homes.

The 84-year-old Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, has vowed to ignore the result of the vote if he does not win, and promised to “go to war” if people vote for Tsvangirai.

“The X (the vote) must follow the gun,” he threatened at a poorly attended rally in the western city of Bulawayo Saturday. “Xs should not defeat guns. You dare not make a mistake. Let’s not kill ourselves.”

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