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Zimbabwe: opposition withdrawal from presidential poll.



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Mr Smith’s Office: Courtney Hoogen 02 6277 7500 or 0488 244901 Departmental : (02) 6261 1555

M E D I A R E L E A S E

Stephen Smith MP Minister for Foreign Affairs

M E D I A R E L E A S E

FA099 23 June 2008

ZIMBABWE: OPPOSITION WITHDRAWAL FROM PRESIDENTIAL POLL

The decision by the President of the Opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, not to contest the presidential run-off election on 27 June, demonstrates the extremes to which the brutal Mugabe regime has pushed Zimbabwe.

The actions and conduct of the Mugabe regime have made impossible a full, free and fair election where the will of the Zimbabwe people is respected.

The Australian Government understands and respects Mr Tsvangirai’s decision and the reasons for it.

The violence and intimidation has escalated. Monitoring of the polls was being severely restricted. A free and fair election would not have been possible.

It is a matter of great regret that the people of Zimbabwe have been deprived of their basic democratic right to cast a vote for the presidency.

Mr Tsvangirai received the most votes in the first round of the Presidential elections held on 29 March. The MDC Party won the majority of Parliamentary seats that were contested in those same elections. As a consequence, the Mugabe regime has no electoral legitimacy to claim the mantle of government.

Australia has been and will be part of international efforts to pressure the Mugabe regime to stop the violence, and allow the Zimbabwean people’s voices to be heard.

We urge the states of the Southern African Development Community and the African Union to work together to resolve the current crisis and to enable the people of Zimbabwe to enjoy a legitimate government through a free and fair election. Mugabe has deprived himself and his party of any electoral or democratic legitimacy.

Australia welcomes the UN Security Council’s discussion today in New York.

Australia is actively considering a range of additional measures, including further consideration of sanctions in place, to exert maximum pressure on the Mugabe regime to effect political and economic change in Zimbabwe.

We will encourage other countries to extend similar levels of sanctions to those Australia already has in place.

In doing so, we are mindful that sanctions should not harm the Zimbabwean people, who have suffered for so long under the Mugabe regime.

As well, Australia will continue its humanitarian assistance to the people of Zimbabwe. I recently announced further assistance of $8 million to the people of Zimbabwe through the World Food Program (WFP) for essential food aid.