I awoke to the news today that Morgan Tsavangirai, the opponent of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe's runoff election this Friday, has announced his plan to withdraw from the race, protesting "this violent, illegitimate sham of an election process." Information in this post is taken directly from the International Herald Tribune.
"On Monday, his spokesman said Tsvangirai had not yet handed in a formal notice of withdrawal from the ballot. His spokesman said he was waiting to see the outcome of his call for the postponement of the vote and would make his position known on Wednesday...
"Tsvangirai's announcement on Sunday came after a governing party militia blocked his supporters from attending a major rally in Harare on Sunday, the head of an election observer team said.
"The opposition said rowdy youths, armed with iron bars and sticks, beat up people who had come to cheer for Tsvangirai.
"It was the latest incident in a tumultuous campaign season in which Tsvangirai has been repeatedly detained, his party's chief strategist jailed on treason charges that many people consider bogus, and rampant state-sponsored violence has left at least 85 opposition supporters dead and thousands injured, according to tallies by doctors treating the victims. Tsvangirai's decision to quit the race seems intended to force Zimbabwe's neighbors to take a stand.
"There are growing cracks in the solidarity that African heads of state have shown for Mugabe, an 84-year-old liberation hero whose defiant anti-Western rhetoric has long struck a resonant chord in a region with a bitter colonial history.
"The United States and Britain were pressing to put Zimbabwe's political crisis on the United Nations Security Council agenda on Monday, a step South Africa, the region's most powerful nation, has consistently opposed...
"In a decision that will be likely to disappoint some of his supporters, especially those who have paid a terrible price for backing him, Tsvangirai apparently decided the level of violence had become intolerable.
"The party also concluded that the systematic campaign to displace thousands of its poll workers had been so effective in the three vote-rich Mashonaland provinces, where Tsvangirai made strong inroads into Mugabe's support, that they would be unable to staff the polling stations on election day, leaving them open to ballot-box stuffing.
"Tsvangirai, a charismatic former trade union leader who has been Mugabe's hated rival for almost a decade, charged Sunday that the president's violent, vengeful strategy had displaced 200,000 people, destroyed 20,000 homes and injured and maimed over 10,000 people in what he called "'this orgy of violence.'"
Oh, Lord, hear our prayers.