MARGARET WARNER: And, Ofeibea, welcome back to the program. What was the reaction today to this announcement in Zimbabwe?
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, National Public Radio: From the government side, they say the Zimbabweans have spoken and that there's going to be a second-round runoff, pitting President Robert Mugabe against his political foe, Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
But on the opposition side, they say that this vote is a scandal, and that the results are criminal, and that they have been doctored and engineered by President Robert Mugabe's party, and that they will not be taking part in the runoff, because Morgan Tsvangirai, their candidate, they claim, won outright victory in the first round and so he is the next president of Zimbabwe.
So that's how it's looking.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, how can the opposition -- on what evidence does the opposition say that they know that Tsvangirai got just over 50 percent, rather than 47.9 percent, as the electoral commission said?
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: Now, one positive thing about these disputed elections is that, for the first time -- and this was negotiated by the regional Southern African community -- is that the election results had to be posted outside the polling stations.
This is the first time it's happened in Zimbabwe's history. And it's on those, on the strength of those results, that the opposition is claiming that its candidate won more than 50 percent, the 50-percent-plus-one vote that it needs to win outright.
So they're sticking to that story. And for the past few weeks, they've been saying they're not going to take part in a runoff.
But before that, they said that they would consider taking part in a second round election, but only if the polls were observed by the United Nations and what they called "credible monitors," which they claim did not happen in the first round.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, what other options does Tsvangirai have? I mean, if he doesn't go into the runoff, where does he go? What happens? Doesn't Mugabe then just become -- remain as president?
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: Well, this is the question. Are they going to boycott or not? Because they've boycotted previous elections and then felt that they had no voice.
But the opposition has decided that what it's going to do is travel around Africa, travel around the world, travel to the U.S., travel to the U.N., and say, as loud as it can, that it has been cheated of electoral victory and that it wants the international community, now specifically the United Nations and the African Union, to act to stop.
And it's not just talking about what it says is an election that it has been robbed of, victory robbed of, but it's talking about this campaign of violence it accuses President Mugabe's supporters of mounting against the opposition, against people who are seen to have voted the wrong way, i.e., against the president.
And it's not just the opposition saying this. It's also human rights organizations; it's also church leaders who are saying that President Mugabe's supporters have decided to unleash a campaign of intimidation, fear and violence to cow Zimbabweans so that, in case there was a second round, they would be too frightened to vote for the opposition.
So the saga continues.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, is this campaign of violence and intimidation in a practical sense enough, in fact, to keep -- if there is a silent majority in Zimbabwe, that, in fact, wants a change -- to actually keep them from going to the polls and ultimately voting to oust Mugabe?
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: You know, you wonder whether it's the violence that has been unleashed -- and the government is also accusing the opposition of having mounted a campaign of violence.
But Zimbabweans are struggling every day with basic things, like shortages of food, of fuel, of money, trying to find fees to send their children to school. So this political hiatus that they've had for the past five weeks, this electoral limbo, of course it's important to them.
Many went out to vote. Many say they voted for change. But on the other hand, while the politicians are bickering, Zimbabweans are trying to make ends meet.
And I think a lot of them, apart from the intimidation and fear factor, are just fed up. They want a better life. They've got an economy that is completely on its knees. And they want to see their children grow up in a stronger, better Zimbabwe.And if that means that they'll have to live with President Mugabe, I think a lot of them will regret it, but I think they want peace, stability and prosperity.