Campaigning has begun for the hotly contested presidential runoff election in Zimbabwe. After finishing second in the March 29 voting, President Robert Mugabe is carrying out a crackdown against his political opponents and their supporters heading toward the runoff balloting on June 27. International pressure must be brought to bear to ensure a free, fair and peaceful election.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was declared the winner in the voting March 29, but not by enough to avoid a runoff. Following the election and announcement of the runoff, opposition leaders, activists, polling officials and journalists have been arrested, foreign diplomats harassed, homes burned, hundreds of people beaten and tortured, and more than 50 killed.
Mr. Tsvangirai has appealed to other African leaders to send more election monitors to observe and monitor voting later this month. The need for this was quickly evident, as police officials and the military moved to obstruct his campaign rallies, blocking streets leading to the rally sites and harassing his supporters. International aid groups were accused of political meddling and ordered to suspend their work in the country, and two more opposition leaders were arrested.
The United States is also appealing for close monitoring of the runoff. In a written statement, President George Bush deplored the Zimbabwean government’s tactics and called for the international community to be allowed to blanket the country with election monitors to ensure that the vote can proceed without fear of intimidation or reprisal.
In the current environment of violence and intimidation, a fair election cannot be assured without foreign oversight. Indeed, to do any less would diminish the sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price for exercising their democratic rights in March.