Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai condemned what he called “mass intimidation” in Zimbabwe’s one-candidate runoff election on Friday, which has been widely criticised by the international community.
“What is happening today is not an election,” Tsvangirai said at a news conference. “It is an exercise in mass intimidation, with people all over the country being forced to vote.”
Residents have been threatened by violence, arson or roving bands of government supporters searching for those without an ink-stained finger, the telltale mark present on those who have registered at polls.
Tsvangirai withdrew from the runoff against President Robert Mugabe on Sunday, after intense state-sponsored violence,.
President Mugabe cast his on vote on Friday at a voting station in Harare in the one candidate presidential run-off.
Mugabe, who has been president since independence in 1980, is believed to want a large turnout so he can claim an overwhelmingly victory over Tsvangirai, whose name remained on the ballot because electoral officials say his withdrawal came too late.
The host of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, Renee Montagne, earlier spoke with foreign correspondent Ofeibia Quist-Arcton from South Africa.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST, MORNING EDITION: In Zimbabwe, polls opened this morning for a presidential runoff where only one candidate is actually running. President Robert Mugabe is therefore poised to remain as president. The opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, dropped out after scores of his supporters were killed and others brutalized. Leaders from around the world have condemned the vote as a sham. They’ve called on the president to postpone the election, which Mugabe has refused to do. NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is monitoring the situation from neighboring South Africa and joins us to talk about it now, live from there. Ofeibea, what can you tell us about the turnout at polling stations in Zimbabwe? I guess people are wondering if opposition supporters are even trying to vote.
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, NPR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Renee, what we’re being told is that the initial signs were of slow voting, that some polling stations that had already opened, but that they haven’t received any voters. But I have to add to that, though, that the opposition has been saying for the last 24 hours or so that people are going to be forced to vote for President Robert Mugabe. They say that Mugabe’s thugs have been holding what are called [“PONG-gway”] in Zimbabwe. That’s a sort of powwow, but it’s a powwow where there’s no conversation and no chatting; you’re being ordered to vote for Robert Mugabe. So we’ll have to see, because we’re also being told that if people don’t have that purple little finger showing that they voted, then they will know that they are opposition supporters, which means trouble.
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