from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – THE withdrawal of a leader of one of the leading opposition contenders from Zimbabwe’s presidential elections is the latest twist in the wake of doubts over prospects of free and fair elections in a fortnight.
Douglas Mwonzora, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), announced on Tuesday he was pulling out of the August 23 poll, citing lack of partiality by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) long accused of rigging elections in favour of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
Allegations have resurfaced that the ZEC is partisan in favour of the liberation movement and its presidential candidate, the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“We are boycotting this farce,” Mwonzora told a conference in Harare, the capital.
“We are boycotting this sham. We are boycotting this presidential election,” the opposition leader said.
The withdrawal means for the first time in 23 years, an MDC candidate would not be on the ballot. The party has since its formation in 1999 emerged the biggest threat to the ZANU-PF stranglehold on power, since 1980.
The MDC has however suffered splits over the years coupled with the death of its founding president, Morgan Tsvangirai, in 2018 further widened the rifts.
In 2008, Tsvangirai became the first candidate to defeat longtime leader, Robert Mugabe, but pulled out of a runoff between the two men, citing violence against his supporters.
Nelson Chamisa, who had controversially assumed the reins after Tsvangirai’s death, left MDC in 2022 to form the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), which is seen as the biggest rival to ZANU-PF’s dominance.
Mnangagwa was initially bracing up for the challenge of 11 candidates in the forthcoming elections.
Courts have barred former cabinet minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, from contesting, on the grounds that he has been living outside Zimbabwe for more than 18 months.
Kasukuwere, popular with a faction of the ruling party, fled Zimbabwe in 2017 after the overthrow of former president Robert Mugabe (now deceased, citing attempts on his life and persecution by the courts.
Violence has marred preparations for the elections, culminating in the recent killing of a CCC activist by suspected ruling party supporters.
At the start of the campaign period, the opposition struggled to get clearance to hold rallies across the country.
– CAJ News