HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai restarts his campaign to oust Robert Mugabe at home on Saturday after seeking support abroad in his risky standoff with the president.
Zimbabwe will hold a second round of a presidential election on June 27 after official results, released after a long delay, showed Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round on March 29, but not by enough votes to avoid a run-off.
The March vote was followed by widespread violence. The MDC said at least 40 of its supporters have been killed and scores of others have been injured.
Mugabe told a ruling ZANU-PF party conference on Friday the result had been “disastrous”, and vowed he would not lose power to an opposition he said was backed by “a hostile axis of powerful foreign governments” and Western imperialists.
Tsvangirai said on Friday Zimbabwe’s problems stemmed from Mugabe’s long rule, not from the issue of who owns the land, which Mugabe has made a centerpiece of his policy.
“There is now a general understanding that the crisis in Zimbabwe is not a problem about land it is the problem of a dictator who refuses to give up power.”
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change expects him back in the capital Harare soon after noon on Saturday.
He is expected to brief opposition members of parliament on his tour of Africa and Europe and to underline their role in control of the legislature, which they won from ZANU-PF for the first time since 1980 in the March 29 vote.
“It is a meeting of the victorious team, a statement to Mugabe that he is simply delaying the inevitable and that come June 27, he too will have to make way for president Tsvangirai,” MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.
Zimbabweans are hoping the poll will help end political and economic turmoil which has brought 165,000 percent inflation, 80 percent unemployment, chronic food and fuel shortages and sent a flood of refugees to neighboring countries.
Former guerrilla leader Mugabe, 84, had already said he would participate in the run-off and Tsvangirai said on Friday he would take part but warned that violence had to end.
“We will participate in the run-off but ... violence has to cease for an election to be conducted or that election will not be legitimate,” he told reporters at a conference in Belfast.
The opposition scored a small victory on Friday when a court ordered police not to interfere with a MDC rally, due to take place in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo on Sunday.
The rally, at which Tsvangirai was to address supporters for the first time since April 8, was banned by police on Thursday.
Noel Kututwa, chairman of independent election observer group the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, said, “To hold an election under these circumstances ... I think the legitimacy of that election will be called into question.”
Tsvangirai appears to be in a strong position to win a fair vote. But the opposition, human rights groups and Western countries accuse Mugabe of launching a campaign of violence and intimidation to try to secure victory.
ZANU-PF denies responsibility, accusing the MDC of unleashing the violence to discredit Mugabe.
“Our fist is against white imperialism. It is a fist for the people of Zimbabwe, never a fist against them,” Mugabe said.
Writing by Marius Bosch; editing by Philippa Fletcher
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