HARARE, Zimbabwe – Police raided the opposition party's headquarters and took away about 60 people Monday, a spokesman said, a day after the party's presidential candidate withdrew from a runoff against longtime leader Robert Mugabe.
Meanwhile, a senior member of the Movement for Democratic Change told The Associated Press that while Morgan Tsvangirai has pulled out of the runoff set for Friday, the party hopes a free and fair vote can be held later.
Most of the people taken away on Monday were women and children who had fled state-sponsored political violence and sought refuge at the Movement for Democratic Change offices, spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.
"Our offices have been raided," Chamisa said, adding that police seized computers and furniture.
Attempts to reach the police spokesman were not immediately successful.
After a similar raid in April, police detained scores of people they accused of being responsible for postelection violence who were later released.
In announcing his withdrawal from the runoff, Tsvangirai said Sunday that harassment and violence against his supporters had made the balloting impossible. The government has said the vote will go ahead.
Roy Bennett, who is treasurer of Tsvangirai's party, told The Associated Press in Johannesburg, South Africa that the party was not turning its back completely on elections.
He called on the Southern African Development Community and the African Union to launch negotiations aimed at bringing members of the opposition and moderate members of Mugabe's ZANU-PF party together in a transitional authority that would create conditions for free and fair presidential voting.
"We honestly believe that we will move forward to a new round" of elections, Bennett said.
He said Mugabe would not be welcome on the transitional authority or in a future government.
"He's ruled for 28 years. It's time he passed the baton on to someone else," Bennett said. "Even in a transitional government we don't see any role for him at all."
The issue of Mugabe's role is believed to have derailed previous attempts to resolve the crisis by creating a coalition government. But Bennett said ZANU-PF would have to yield now in the face of growing international pressure.
ZANU-PF, he said, risked being "totally isolated and totally rejected by the African countries as well as the world at large."
Mugabe was lauded early in his rule for campaigning for racial reconciliation. But in recent years, he has been accused of ruining the economy and holding onto power through fraud and intimidation.
People are going hungry in what was once the region's breadbasket, with the world's highest inflation rate putting staples out of reach.
The economic slide has been blamed on the collapse of the key agriculture sector after often-violent seizures of farmland from whites. Mugabe claimed he ordered the seizures, begun in 2002, to benefit poor blacks. But many of the farms instead went to his loyalists.