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Zimbabwe Runoff Goes Ahead


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.



And I'm Robert Siegel.

The presidential election in Zimbabwe went ahead today despite international calls for the vote to be postponed. A defiant President Robert Mugabe was the only candidate. His political adversary, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out saying state-sponsored violence against his supporters meant the ballot could not be free and fair.

There has been more condemnation of the Mugabe government today, G8 foreign ministers meeting in Tokyo issued a statement saying that they would not recognize the outcome of the runoff.

Here is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

NORRIS: What is going on in Zimbabwe is simply unacceptable in the 21st century and cannot be ignored by the international community and that is why the statement speaks to the illegitimacy of any government that comes out of those sham elections today.


SIEGEL: We're joined on the line from Johannesburg by NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. And Ofeibea, the vote has happened. How did it go?

OFEIBEA QUIST: Well, we're being told the low turnout in the urban areas and that's a traditionally opposition stronghold, but a higher turnout in the rural areas where it's much more difficult to monitor what's going on. We're being told by the opposition, that government thugs were forcing people to go out and vote, and also to show that they voted by having this pink-purple colored dye on their finger. And of course, to vote for the president or else.

Now, President Robert Mugabe said - he said he's optimistic, he's upbeat. Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, said the election was an exercise in mass intimidation. And he says anybody who recognizes the government of Mugabe will be denying the will of the Zimbabwean people.

SIEGEL: Well, in that case, what happens next? Should we expect governments to withdraw their recognition of the Mugabe government?

QUIST: That's certainly what the opposition would hope for. Morgan Tsvangirai has been saying all along that because of the levels of violence against his supporters in the runoff that there's no way this election could have been free and fair. So there's pressure on African leaders and they're meeting very soon in Egypt for the African Union Summit, but there's also a pressure on Washington and the former colonial power, London, and others to reject this election wholesale and to put even more pressure on Robert Mugabe.

SIEGEL: Well, given President Mugabe's defiance in the face of criticism from Archbishop Desmond Tutu who called him a Frankenstein monster today, even some criticism from Nelson Mandela earlier this week. What chance is there of some resolution by which Robert Mugabe would be anything less than the president of Zimbabwe?

QUIST-ARCTON; Zimbabweans just want peace. They want dialogue. Everybody is going to have to put their heads together to try and find some solution, Robert, because of course it's the Zimbabwean people who are suffering, not only just this political and electoral crisis, but of course the economic crisis as well.

SIEGEL: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in Johannesburg. Ofeibea, thank you very much.

QUIST: Always a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.