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Tsvangirai Withdraws from Zimbabwe Runoff, Seeks Refuge in Dutch Embassy

BY Admin  June 23, 2008 at 10:20 AM EST

Morgan Tsvangirai and supporters; AP file photo

Most of the people taken away were women and children who
had fled state-sponsored political violence and sought refuge at the Movement
for Democratic Change offices, the spokesman told the Associated Press.

In announcing his withdrawal from the runoff on Sunday, Morgan
Tsvangirai said that harassment and violence against his supporters had made
the balloting impossible. The government has said the June 27 vote will go
ahead.

On Monday, Tsvangirai sought refuge at the Dutch embassy in
the capital city of Harare,
according to the Dutch foreign ministry. A foreign ministry spokesman said Tsvangirai had
spent the night in the Dutch embassy but had not requested asylum.

“We can’t ask the people to cast their vote on June 27
when that vote will cost their lives. We will no longer participate in this
violent sham of an election,” Tsvangirai said Sunday.

Tsvangirai announced his decision during a news conference
in Zimbabwe’s
capital after thousands of ruling party militants blockaded the site of the
opposition’s main campaign rally. They set up roadblocks to prevent opposition
supporters from reaching the venue, ripped branches from trees and hurled
stones at cars, according to the AP.

The opposition says violence has left 86 people dead and
displaced 200,000 since the disputed March 29 presidential election. After a
long and much-criticized delay in announcing results, Tsvangirai had the most
votes but not the overall majority needed to win outright.

“It’s a dire situation, whichever way you look at it.
It’s a kind of world war for [Tsvangirai], but I don’t think we are going to
see a solution in the near future, in a few months,” Eldred Masunungure, a
political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe, told Reuters.

“I think Mugabe will try to tough this one out too, and
only negotiate some kind of deal with the MDC as a very last resort,” Masunungure
said.

Roy Bennett, treasurer of the MDC, told the AP in Johannesburg, South Africa, the party was not
turning its back completely on elections.

Bennett called on the Southern African Development Community
and the African Union to launch negotiations aimed at bringing members of the
opposition and moderate members of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party together in a
transitional authority that would create conditions for free and fair
presidential voting.

“We honestly believe that we will move forward to a new
round” of elections, Bennett said.

Britain’s
Africa Minister Mark Malloch Brown on Monday told reporters, “Our
objectives are to get in every forum possible a recognition that today
President Mugabe no longer remains the proper rightful leader of the
country.”

“He has no claim under his own constitution for the
presidency…we do not accept the status quo, we do not expect the
international community to accept the status quo,” Malloch Brown added.

Malloch Brown said the United Nations Security Council,
which meets later on Monday, the European Union and the African Union should
consider wider sanctions.

They could take action against the financial assets of members
of Mugabe’s administration, against their ability to travel without risk of
arrest on human rights grounds, or against the foreign studies of children of
the members of Mugabe’s inner circle, he said.

“I think we can look with reasonable confidence to
broad- based action to make sure there’s a resolution of this situation,”
Malloch Brown said.