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Should Tsvangirai accept a runoff poll in Zimbabwe?

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MDC leader Morgan TsvangiraiAfter a month of withholdingZimbabwe’s presidential poll results, electoral authorities on May 2 announced what was widely known to be the real outcome: President Robert Mugabe had lost the vote. The announcement gave opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai 47.9 percent of the vote but said he faces a runoff after failing to gain enough votes for an outright majority. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change denounced the result as scandalous and maintained its stand that it had won more than 50 percent of the vote and that Mugabe’s 28-year rule was over.

The MDC faces a huge dilemma. If it boycotts a runoff poll, it would hand victory to Mugabe by default. But in the view of the MDC, human rights groups and Western governments, no fair or credible runoff poll can be held in Zimbabwe under a current climate of violence and intimidation they say is orchestrated by Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF. The MDC and Mugabe’s critics at home and abroad have also condemned the unprecedented delay in announcing the presidential result as part of the government’s grand plan to rig the vote in favour of Mugabe.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement: “The ruling party’s bloody crackdown on the opposition makes a free and fair runoff vote a tragic joke. The violence must stop and an impartial process be put in place before any new vote is held.”

Mugabe was quick to declare his willingness to go for a runoff. The MDC said there were issues it needed to consider before deciding on whether or not to participate. Should Tsvangirai accept a runoff to avoid handing victory to Mugabe? Should there be international intervention in Zimbabwe to avert wider bloodshed and if so what form should this take? Have your say.

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