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Daily Archives: May 17, 2008

Zimbabwe run-off election set for June 27

by Susan Njanji*

Zimbabwe's long-awaited run-off election was finally set yesterday for June 27 as opposition leader and first-round winner Morgan Tsvangirai prepared to return home for his final push for power.
A fortnight after announcing the Movement for Democratic Change leader won more votes than veteran leader Robert Mugabe in an inconclusive first round, the electoral commission said the run-off would take place in six weeks' time.
In a notice placed in an extraordinary government gazette, the commission announced that "a poll shall be taken on Friday, June 27, 2008, for the purpose of electing a person to the office of president."
The announcement was something of a surprise given that the commission had earlier in the week extended a deadline for the election to be held from May 23 to July 31 — sparking fury in the ranks of the opposition.
Tsvangirai, who only reluctantly agreed to take part in the run-off as he believes he passed the 50 percent threshold in the first round on March 29, has previously said that any ballot held after May 23 will be illegitimate.
The former labour leader has been out of the country for more than a month but his party said he was lined up to return on Saturday lunchtime and would then immediately kick off his run-off campaign.
"President Tsvangirai is definitely arriving tomorrow at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT)," the party's director of information Luke Tamborinyoka told AFP.
He would first address lawmakers, who now make up a majority in parliament after a legislative election which also took place on March 29, in the capital Harare before heading to the main southern city of Bulawayo to address a rally.
"The rally in Bulawayo will mark the beginning of nationwide rallies in which he will be seeing victims of political violence as well as thanking the nation for voting for change on March 29," said Tamborinyoka.
While the election itself passed off largely peacefully, the period since has been marked by increasing levels of violence and the opposition says more than 30 of its supporters have since died at the hands of Mugabe supporters.
In a report released on Thursday, the London-based rights group Amnesty International said that Mugabe's supporters were forcibly recruiting youths to carry out attacks on suspected opposition supporters.
Senior members of Mugabe's party, who have already endorsed the president to stand in a run-off, were due to meet Friday to map out their campaign strategy.
The central committee of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), which normally meets four times a year, was holding a special session, the first after its veteran leader was beaten at the polls for the first time since taking power at independence from Britain in 1980.
Seen as a post-colonial success story in the first decade-and-a-half after independence, Zimbabwe's economy has been in freefall since 2000 when the 84-year-old Mugabe embarked on a land reform programme which saw thousands of white-owned farms expropriated.
Eighty percent of the workforce is unemployed while the official inflation rate in February stood at 165,000 percent — the highest in the world.


Russia claims capture of Georgian spy

Russia's FSB security service has caught a Georgian spy in southern Russia who was working to destabilise the region, Russian news agencies quoted intelligence agency sources as saying yesterday.
"An agent has been exposed, a Russian citizen, a native of Georgia," an unnamed FSB source told Interfax, adding that the capture "confirms the involvement of Georgian secret services in disruptive terrorist activity in the North Caucasus."
ITAR-TASS news agency also quoted an FSB source as confirming the capture of the man, aged 34.
The FSB claim comes as tensions between Georgia and Russia have dramatically escalated, centring on the separatist Georgian territory of Abkhazia, where Russia has peacekeeping forces.
The Interfax source said the suspect had been living in the war-torn southern Russian province of Chechnya and had admitted his work for Georgia's secret services.
"In part his work was to organise contacts between Georgian secret services and active members of illegal armed groups on Russian territory," the Interfax source said.
The suspect had also been tasked with establishing contacts with Russian security forces and ensuring "free movement of terrorists in the North Caucasus," the source said.
"For fulfilling his tasks the agent several times received financial rewards from Georgia's special services in American dollars. Some of these were handed over in personal meetings, some by… money transfer," the source added.
Tensions between Georgia and Russia have been fuelled in recent weeks by claims by Abkhaz separatists to have shot down several Georgian reconnaissance drones over the separatist territory.
Georgia has denied this, saying that only one drone has been destroyed, by a Russian fighter jet.
Underlying the disputes is the effort by Georgia's pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili to join the NATO military alliance, which Moscow opposes.
Russia has established formal links with Georgian separatist regions, prompting strong objections from the international community and Georgia itself.