Zimbabwe opposition issues fresh election challenge

By staff writers
September 7, 2008

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he will not be bullied into power sharing at any cost and has challenged President Robert Mugabe to hold new elections if he is not prepared to reach a genuine agreement.

Mr Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has also said that he he will withdraw from power-sharing talks mediated by South Africa if a satisfactory deal cannot be reached.

Human rights, civic and church activists on the ground would like to see a peaceful transition of power and recognise that deals may be necessary, but warn against tricks and coercion by the Mugabe regime - which only won power in the first place through massive intimidation.

Mr Mugabe says he will form a government without the MDC if they do not agree to his version of a power-sharing deal being facilitated by President Thabo Mbeki - who many say has been too soft on the dictator, but who believes a negotiated settlement is preferable to bloodshed and confrontation.

"The issue that we are facing here is that Mugabe must accept to surrender some of his powers for the power-sharing arrangement to work," Mr Tsvangirai told an opposition rally in Gweru, central Zimbabwe.

The two rivals have agreed that Mr Tsvangirai would be named prime minister while Mr Mugabe remained president. The MDC wants Mugabe to become a ceremonial president, while the ruling Zanu-PF party insists he retain control of the security forces and the powers to appoint and dismiss ministers.

Critics say that this would make a mockery of the concept of sharing power and will leave him in a position of dominance.

"We would rather have no deal than a bad deal," Mr Tsvangirai told the BBC and other news agencies this weekend.

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