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Zimbabwe's Opposition Leader Pulls Out of Election

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, announced Sunday that he is pulling out of next Friday's presidential run-off election.

Tsvangirai said a free and fair election was not possible in Zimbabwe and the loss of life among his supporters was simply too high a price to pay. The move follows a wave of political violence that most observers have blamed on supporters of veteran President Robert Mugabe.

From across Zimbabwe's border in South Africa, NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton tells host Liane Hansen that Mugabe has been "more or less" handed a victory by default with Tsvangirai's announcement.

She also says the opposition hopes that by withdrawing from the poll, pressure will be put on the international community to act to end the political violence in Zimbabwe since the first round of voting in March.

"The opposition has very firmly put the onus not only on the international community, but also the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union and diplomacy by saying, 'Look, there is no way that we could take part' in what it has called a sham of an electoral process," she says.

Quist-Arcton also says the people in Zimbabwe are suffering.

"They are being beaten," Quist-Arcton says. "Beaten on the bottom of their feet; being beaten on their buttocks if they support the opposition by pro-Mugabe thugs who are telling them: 'We will show you who to vote for this time because you voted the wrong way last time.' But there is not only a political and electoral crisis in Zimbabwe; we also have an economic crisis with inflation running, officially, at 160,000 percent – and unofficially much higher. This is a crisis."

Zimbabwe's Information Minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, announced that the opposition was withdrawing from the election to avoid a total humiliation because it knew Tsvangirai was going to lose.

Meanwhile, President Mugabe has already made it clear that he will never voluntarily relinquish power after 28 years, saying only God can remove him from office.

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