Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has said it will not participate in next year's elections if what it terms structural and institutional inhibitions to free and fair polls are not addressed.

MDC secretary general Tendai Biti on Thursday said the party would not participate in next year's elections if various contentious electoral issues were not ironed out.

Biti, who is also Harare East legislator, said there was need to address issues such as the denial of the right to vote to Zimbabweans in the diaspora.

"There are structural and institutional inhibitions to free and fair elections and we have walked that path before where you campaign and the election is stolen from you. We will not walk that path again. We will not participate in an election whose result is pre-determined," he said. "The absence of a constitution, a home, grown contract between governors and the governed needs to be addressed. The issues of the denial of the right to vote to Zimbabweans who are in the diaspora, the denial of the right to vote by people who are 18, who are not on the voters' roll, the thousands if not millions who continue to be denied statehood by the reconfiguration and the redefinition of the concept of citizenship. So, if your grandparents come from Zimbabawe, Malawi , Zambia or Mozambique, New Zealand, Tanzania, Ireland or Scotland you are not a Zimbabwean. That is not good enough.

"We will not participate in a predetermined election. The question is whether our participation in an artificial construct will help to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis and we will not participate in an artificial construct."
Biti said the government needed to address the issue of election management and the speedy and expeditious resolution of all electoral disputes.

"Election management is another critical issue. Who runs this election? How independent and impartial is the board that runs elections? Who prints the ballot papers, where, how many are distributed to a province, to a ward, or district? Who does the tallying up and the reconciliation of the voting process? Is that vote secret?" he asked. "The presidential election petition of 2002 is still outstanding. There are still some cases that were still outstanding from 2000 and some litigants have even died without their cases being heard. That is not good enough.

"There is the problematic issue of accreditation of monitors and observers for the opposition. At the end of the day you have an election where two thirds of the country has no monitors from the opposition."
Biti also explained that the government invoked provisions of the public order and security Act to ban public rallies in Harare since February.
He said for the MDC, political meetings were the oxygen of their political campaign and that the ban had impacted on their preparedness.
An announcement is scheduled to be made on June 25 as to whether or not the ban will be upheld.
He also said MDC had no access to the existing public media, both print and electronic.

"How do you have a country with one daily newspaper? How do you have one television station? We live in a global community where information is international, where information is not restricted to narrow, fictitious borders brought about in 1884. Much as I want to know what is happening in Iraq, the average Shi'ite wants to know what's happening in Zimbabwe," he said.

Biti said there was also need to end the militarisation and violence as that had planted fear in the opposition camp.

He also said the issue of food needed to be de-institutionalised.
"There is runaway hyperinflation and we need to find another definition. The official definition of hyperinflation is when the month to month inflation exceeds 60 per cent but here we have a situation where it's over a thousand per cent, in March official inflation was 2,200, in April it was 3,700, for May they have not released the results but it must be over 2000 per cent," Biti said. "Within the context of food and resources, it means that in a situation where the economy is operating at 15 to 25 per cent capacity, the presence of the state as an employer, as provider of resources increases and people's reliance on food increases and that is prone to abuse. So we need to de-institutionalise the issue of food. The reality is that we need two million tonnes to feed the local population and for strategic reserves we need another million. But we are only able to produce 400,000 tonnes and yet we were a bread basket."

Biti also said there was need to involve international observers in next year's elections.

"To me every election is international and the world wants to watch and if those issues are not dealt with then we will not participate," he said.
However, Biti said the MDC had started campaigning in readiness for the elections.

"Morgan Tsvangirai always says to our structures that when a woman is pregnant, she will buy nappies even though she doesn't know whether the baby is going to come out alive or not. We are also preparing. The election campaign is on and the final decision as to whether we will participate will be made at the very last minute when we do an audit of what we would have gained from the SADC talks. We will know whether it is worth it. W had a heartbreak in 2002 and we will not have another one," he said.

Asked over the issue of unification of the two factions of the party, Biti said the talks were at an advanced stage.

"But the absence of unification cannot be used as an excuse for rigging elections. The reason why the opposition has not been winning elections is not because they are divided but because of the structural issues outlined. Unfortunately, the key negotiators in the Mbeki process are the key negotiators in the other process," he said.
Asked whether there was a timeframe within which the party could resolve the differences in the two camps, Biti said, "We don't do that. If you want negotiations to fail, give yourself a deadline. Obviously we would want them to be concluded as soon as possible. They are very challenging negotiations, both external and internal. They are quite exhaustive."