Zimbabwe opposition takes a step forward

Could the wave of populist uprisings reach africa?

Thousands of Zimbabweans raised their hands for change yesterday at the largest rally of the opposition election campaign.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, was greeted by a sea of open palms as he addressed 15,000 supporters in the capital, Harare.

The open hand is the MDC's official symbol - in contrast with the clenched fists brandished by President Robert Mugabe and his followers in the ruling Zanu-PF. "Harare will never be Zanu-PF again," Mr Tsvangirai said.

He urged the crowd to back the MDC in Thursday's parliamentary election, saying: "The choice is very simple. You are being asked to choose between thieves, thugs and murderers and people who want to take Zimbabwe's children to the promised land."

However, the contest is heavily rigged against Mr Tsvangirai. There is less violence than in any recent campaign but every branch of the electoral machinery is slanted in Mr Mugabe's favour. Independent surveys have shown that the electoral roll is stuffed with the names of voters who have died or emigrated. At least one million names have been falsely registered.

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