WASHINGTON – President Bush on Wednesday said the presidential runoff election in Zimbabwe this week appears to be a "sham," joining a chorus of international condemnation against the actions of that country's ruler.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who wants to extend his nearly three-decade rule, is being blamed for widespread violence and intimidation of his opponents ahead of a presidential runoff election Friday. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai briefly emerged from his refuge at the Dutch Embassy on Wednesday and called for African leaders to guide talks to end Zimbabwe's crisis.
"You can't have free elections if a candidate is not allowed to campaign freely and his supporters aren't allowed to campaign without fear of intimidation," Bush said during a meeting with representatives of the U.N. Security Council. "Yet, the Mugabe government has been intimidating people on the ground in Zimbabwe. And this is an incredibly sad development."
U.N. Security Council members have unanimously condemned Zimbabwe's government, saying it has waged a "campaign of violence" that has made it impossible to hold a fair presidential election. The 15-nation council said it "condemns the campaign of violence against the political opposition ahead of the second round of presidential elections," which has claimed the lives of scores of opposition activists and other Zimbabweans.
Although the Bush administration has called his government illegitimate, Mugabe has grown only more defiant in the face of growing international pressure.
"Friday's elections appear to be a sham," Bush said.
He called upon the African Union to continue to highlight the "illegitimacy" of the elections and keep reminding the world that the process is "not free and it's not fair."
Bush said the people of Zimbabwe deserve better.
"The people there want to express themselves at the ballot box, yet the Mugabe government has refused to allow them to do so. This is not just and it is wrong," he said.