|24. June 2008
Free Zimbabwe poll impossible, says UN Security Council
The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned the violence and intimidation against Zimbabwe's opposition party. In a statement, the 15-member body said a free and fair presidential run-off vote on Friday, July 27, would be "impossible".
Opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai has withdrawn from the election and taken refuge in the Dutch embassy in the capital, Harare.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon earlier said the vote should be delayed, but Zimbabwe's UN envoy insisted it would go ahead.
The British-drafted UN statement is much-watered down from an earlier draft version, but it is the first time that South Africa, Russia and China have agreed to criticise President Robert Mugabe's government.
"The Security Council condemns the campaign of violence against the political opposition," says the statement.
It continues by saying that the campaign "has resulted in the killing of scores of opposition activists and other Zimbabweans, and the beating and displacement of thousands of people, including many women and children.
"The Security Council regrets that the campaign of violence and the restrictions on the political opposition have made it impossible for a free and fair election to take place on 27 June."
The US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad said the Security Council was sending a strong message to Mr Mugabe. "We were able to get a unanimous statement, sending a clear message that we all want to help the people of Zimbabwe, that there is a need for establishing a legitimate order," he said.
Zimbabwe's ambassador to the UN said the vote would go ahead as planned. "As far we are concerned, the election will take place on Friday," Boniface Chidyausiku said. "The legitimacy of any election comes from the people of Zimbabwe. "Should the people of Zimbabwe decide, whoever they elect, that's their sovereign right and there is nobody who can say: 'You have made the wrong decision - you should've elected another candidate'."
Earlier on Monday, UN Secretary General Mr Ban called on Zimbabwe to postpone the run-off election. He said holding the vote as scheduled would only "deepen divisions within the country and produce a result that cannot be credible". He said: "Conditions do not exist for free and fair elections right now in Zimbabwe. There has been too much violence, too much intimidation."
He said he had discussed the issues with a number of African leaders, and advised President Mugabe to postpone the election until the right conditions were in place for people to vote freely and fairly. Mr Ban added that what happened in Zimbabwe had significance beyond its borders and was the "single greatest challenge to regional stability".
Mr Tsvangirai has been spending a second night in the Dutch embassy in the capital Harare.
A Dutch foreign ministry spokesman said the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader feared for his safety, but had not requested asylum.
On Monday, more than 60 MDC supporters were arrested at the party's Harare headquarters.
The BBC's world affairs editor, John Simpson, who is in Harare, says few people in Zimbabwe even know that Mr Tsvangirai has withdrawn from the race, because the country's official media mention him and his party as little as possible.
He adds that Mr Mugabe is on course for a remarkable sweeping victory, when only three months ago he seemed to be on the ropes.