October 21, 2004

Tsvangirai may call off poll boycott

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has hinted that his party may drop a threatened boycott of general elections in March after his acquittal on treason charges. Tsvangirai said that the "not guilty" verdict, denounced as a travesty of justice by President Robert Mugabe, could "free up political space" for his party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), to take part in the poll. "It may provide the basis for rapprochement and dialogue in seeking a resolution to a national crisis that has been dragging on for far too long," Tsvangirai said. The "major preoccupation" of the MDC, which won nearly half of the vote in the 2000 general election, would now be working towards an election that would deliver a legitimate government, he added. The former trade unionist said he would take action to secure the return of his passport, which was confiscated during the legal proceedings. This would allow him to embark on a foreign tour to rally support among African leaders. "Some need persuading that their solidarity should lie not with Mugabe but with Zimbabwe’s people," he said.
As the results of a survey carried out by the Mass Public Opinion Institute in August further show, the MDC could sink into political oblivion if it boycotted next year's elections. More than half of its supporters feel that the party should contest the elections because electoral reform is a process and not an event. The survey showed that 64 percent of the people were against the boycott. Among respondents who indicated that they supported the opposition, 56 percent said they were against the boycott while sixty-seven percent of ZANU PF supporters were against the boycott. (The Sunday Times, Johannesburg / Financial Gazette, Harare)

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