Zimbabwe's main opposition party has announced it will field candidates in parliamentary elections next month "with a heavy heart".
The MDC fears the outcome has already been decided
The polls would not be free and fair, said the Movement for Democratic Change. "We participate under protest."
Last year it said it would boycott elections because the odds were stacked in favour of President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party.
Mr Mugabe has promised to abide by a set of regional democratic guidelines.
He has set up a national electoral commission but the MDC says the changes do not go far enough.
The MDC had wanted the 31 March elections to be put back so that more reforms could be passed.
Its main complaints are:
- "Rule of law concerns have not been addressed.
- The media remains muzzled;
- "Free assembly is proscribed by the Public Order Security Act;
- "The recently appointed Electoral Commission is yet to prove its independence;
- "The shambolic voter's roll continues to be the principal vehicle for electoral fraud;
- "The Constituency boundaries have been subjectively gerrymandered whilst militias and militia bases continue to multiply;
- "International observers continue to be unwelcome."
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said the party was contesting because most MDC supporters wanted to take part and "to keep the flames of hope for change alive".
BBC Southern Africa correspondent Barnaby Phillips says the MDC feared it would have lost its relevance if it had boycotted the polls.
They also hope that by taking part, they will force Zanu-PF into blatant ballot-rigging, which would discredit the poll abroad.
President Mugabe denies rigging previous elections
But our correspondent says Zanu-PF will be confident that it has the support of neighbouring African countries.
The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Mr Mugabe and his close associates, accusing him of using violence and electoral fraud to rig the 2002 presidential election.
Mr Mugabe denies the accusations and says western countries are seeking his removal because of his policy to seize white-owned land for redistribution to blacks.
Will you be voting in the forthcoming elections? If so, please use the form below to send us your views and comments.
I will not be voting; what is the point exactly? I would like to know exactly which hospitals and roads Mugabe has built? As far as I can see things have gone to rack and ruin. There is not a road that does not have a pothole on it or a hospital that is not over-run and defunct. What about the schools? How exactly has Mugabe improved the education system?
I will not vote. The situation is so dire in Zimbabwe that people flee to escape persecution and hunger imposed unfairly on them by the Mugabe regime. My mother is one of those who would starve if relatives who have fled could not send her money. Mugabe uses hunger to starve his voters, then he uses violence to intimidate them. I will boycott the election, if I vote, it will be a rigged vote and Mugabe will win anyway.
Historically political parties that write graffiti on walls and roads don't win any elections in Zimbabwe, that's a fact Zum, Zud, name them. They have come and gone the same way. I will vote Zanu PF, the people's party. It will win in a big way. MDC has nothing substantiated to offer, take for instance Tsvangirai flying all over Europe where he doesn't have any constituency. The EU will vote for him not me.
Chilenje, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe
I am amused to see the criticism of the MDC as "weak" and "ineffectual" from the Zanu PF apologists because this is their most recent propaganda theme. Far from being weak the MDC in reality won both the last parliamentary and presidential elections, as Mugabe well knows. Being outside the country my right to vote has been taken from me. I hope that Condoleezza Rice will mount an effective campaign to ensure free elections are held. It is a great shame that the UK is so completely ineffectual in confronting this brutal dictator. But then, it was the UK under Thatcher who gave him power.
Charles, Canterbury, UK
I will vote in March whether the elections are rigged or not. I will vote because this might be the only time when the truth will be shown in this country... might not be but I will keep voting and one day good will prevail over evil.
Tendai, Harare, Zimbabwe
It is proper for us to exercise our democratic right to vote. Remember the objective for the war of liberation was for the majority to exercise this one man one vote principle that was denied us previously. Mugabe and his crew should respect the principles of democracy for which blood was spilt. Having said that, the West should not pursue their ideals of regime change but let Zimbabwe people decide for themselves. The Zimbabwean people should be at the forefront of determining their model of democracy and not have a one size fits all democracy thrust upon us by the West.
It is time for the Zimbabweans to sort out their problems and concentrate on things that really matter to the Zimbabwean situation which are health (problem of Aids), the ailing economy, employment etc. Personally despite my severe reservation about Zanu PF, at the moment I think they make better representatives for the country than MDC whose policies are very unclear. MDC is a good opposition party but they lack the depth to form a credible government and maintain a coherent Zimbabwean society.
Mambo, Harare, Zimbabwe
I will definitely vote for the only political party that is capable of bringing genuine economic, political and social empowerment of the majority, who in Zimbabwe are black. That is Mugabe's party. I lived in Europe for ten years and now I own 60 acres of prime land in my country because of Mugabe's land reform programme. When a European tells me I should vote Mugabe out of power because he is making black people like me starve, I laugh. I know these are the last kicks of a dying horse.
Olley, Harare, Zimbabwe
I stay in the USA but am going home to vote for the MDC. It will not alter the terrible status quo but it will at least be seen as a vote of protest. I wish there was oil in Zimbabwe, then there would be a more serious and concentrated effort by the world bodies to effect change.
Mandla, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
I will rather continue my business than vote. Voting for Zanu PF is a waste of time because they are frauds. As for MDC - they are too rural and not professional at all.
I won't be voting because I am a Zimbabwean in the Diaspora. Isn't it ironic that Zanu PF expects us to help build the economy from these foreign countries but does not allow us to vote? If we all voted, MDC will obviously have a 99% win in the coming elections. If we inspected the voters roll, I am sure we will find all our names there and eventually records, if not destroyed will show that we all voted for Zanu PF. I would also like to encourage the international countries to impose sanctions on all the SADC member countries which are part and parcel of Mugabe's dictatorship. They are turning a blind eye to the situation in Zimbabwe because birds of a feather flock together.
Mutongi, Scarborough, UK
Voting in Zimbabwe is as risky as voting in Iraq and 60% Iraqis did it and so nothing is going to stop me from voting. Voting for MDC is as dangerous as joining the Iraqi army but most Zimbabweans will do it just to get rid of Mugabe.
Sonduku, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe
To be perfectly honest, I think that both political parties are two sides of one coin. The point being that even if we switch from one side to the other the coin remains of little value to us. Zanu PF has been in power for such a long time now and I think that a new crop of leaders should emerge. However it would seem that the MDC has very little to offer other than to complain and criticize the government, which we as ordinary Zimbabweans have done for several years.
What is needed is a viable alternative, one that recognises that there are problems and one that has concrete solutions and very salient and definitive policies on the most burning issues. It must be taken into account that were there more political options it is highly unlikely that the MDC would have gotten the support that it did during the elections of 2000 and 2002, respectively.
Tinashe, Harare, Zimbabwe
First and foremost I want to state categorically clear that the present government has foiled us. It's very unfortunate that the Zanu PF guys are continuing to ask for the Zimbabwean people's votes yet they are only contributing to us to become more and more poorer. Zimbabwe has a very young economy which is driven by a very strong extractive/primary industry which cannot thrive without the help of the international/donor community. All the hopes that we had as a country of becoming an economic giant were thwarted by the dictatorial Mugabe government.
The only contribution they have done to us is that of destroying the agricultural potential of the country and isolating us from the international community. As a result of all this, the rural folk of Zimbabwe have remained poorer and poorer. Whether I vote or not, I know the Zanu PF people are good at manipulating the system and changing the goalposts to suit what they want. In conclusion, I want to say that God is looking at our country and he will not continue with his quiet diplomacy but will do something for the good and peace loving Zimbabwean people.
Tranos, Kadoma, Zimbabwe
I will be travelling to Zimbabwe to vote for Zanu PF because there is no any other credible party out there to vote for. Morgan is just flip flopping like John Kerry did n USA.
Jabulani, Dallas, TX, USA
Yes, I will be voting, for the present government. I want Joyce Mujuru to be the first female African president and the only way to ensure that, is by voting for the current government. I feel things will change for the better. As a woman, I don't trust MDC, especially its leader. I think he is too rural for me and we need a more modern personality.
Julia, Harare, Zimbabwe
I will vote for Zanu PF, not MDC.
Fraser, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
In 2005 Mugabe will be re-elected because he is going to rig the process again. So naturally Britain and the rest of the world will continue to ignore the black people who are suffering in Zimbabwe. Britain does not care about the black people of Zimbabwe who continue to hunger and be tortured under the regime.
I will vote because it's my birthright and mother country. I want see a better Zimbabwe than the colonial one. The struggle is to see a much free Zimbabwe, free from the colonial enemies who scrambled for land and minerals.
We are just participating because we are afraid that our party will be banned if we do not take part.
Blessing, Harare, Zimbabwe
I won't vote. Why should I vote? What good does it do? We have been voting for the past 25 years and how has that helped in anyway? A man with senses would rather worry about where and how he's going to get his next plate of sadza. Parliamentary elections have no effect in the political status core. They don't determine anything. It's obvious Zanu PF will win. MDC has nothing to offer different from Zanu PF. People know that. What MDC gets is protest votes.
Now, people can also get tired of protesting with no results. If people protest, they need results to make it worthy their while, since a political protest is no joy ride. Ideologically, there would be nothing to vote for. Both sides have nothing new to offer. We have had all those same arguments before. On a personal note though, Zimbabwe is still better off with Zanu PF in power. Why? A strong government is better than a week government. MDC has a very week leadership.
MDC is barren of ideas. MDC reduces itself to political opportunists. The party does not have a backbone. The party stands for nothing. The party has no drive. And as a result, the party has lost a tremendous following. If MDC wins any seats in these march elections, they are very lucky.
Conrad, Harare, Zimbabwe
The students at my college have been denied the right to vote. We were told to wait and "check next week after we receive a directive from government officials responsible." This ensued until they closed their polling office. This occurred at a tertiary institution and I will not supply the name for fear of victimisation due to lack guarantee of adequate security.
I am not going to vote on 31 March because it doesn't make any sense, voting so that my vote will be used against my will. Zanu PF is a cheat and even if I vote or not it will be the same because they are already claiming victory before the election so why voting when our ruling party doesn't consider majority votes but prefers rigging. Why waste my time?
Chipato, Gweru, Zimbabwe
I will not vote because voting here does not have significance. They will rig again as they did in 2000 and 2002. I waited in line for six hours only for them to steal our right. In fact the MDC should have boycotted the election.
MDC has proven to be disorganised and inconsistent. It is quite aware that the majority has realised this and will not repeat the same mistake made in the 2000 election, of affording it a chance in parliament.
Musorowegomo, Harare, Zimbabwe
I am going to vote. It is good that the MDC has succumbed to pressures from neighbouring countries who have a more clearer picture of what is happening here. The UK and USA are gullible to MDC lies because it's good news to them considering that they hate Mugabe so much because he has outsmarted them on many occasions.
The climate is not as bad as portrayed by the MDC. The truth is that the MDC is going to be defeated heavily. This is why they want to make the West condemn the elections before they even start. I will not vote for inferior puppets.
Garikai, Harare, Zimbabwe
Contesting has always been a good idea. We must mobilise each other now and turn out in our numbers and shame them even if they rig. We will have registered our protest!
Dusty, Harare, Zimbabwe
I will be voting this year, I believe it's the only way I can express my political will. I also believe that if the political playing field, is really levelled, the ruling party will get a shocker.
Xolani, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Yes, to consolidate the gains of the 2000 land reform.
Dennis, Harare Zimbabwe
No I won't be voting even though I agree with the MDC's decision to contest the election. I stood for hours queuing enthusiastically last elections, but have seen Zimbabwe go from bad to worse. I feel in a free and fair election my vote would count for something, but that is not going to happen here and now. Elected MDC officials have been harassed, imprisoned, chased out of office over the past five years and the peoples will has meant nothing.
Tim, Harare, Zimbabwe
Yes why not. Even if Zanu PF wins at least they will know they are still plenty Zimbabweans gunning for change and I am one of them. Freedom does not come easily does it?
Why is Mr Mugabe being persecuted because he took white owned farms? I know that there are things he has done wrong but just like Tony Blair and Bush, leaders can make mistakes... this man worked very hard for us to be educated, he built hospitals and roads that the Smith regime never did for us. Give the old man a break. He has achieved a lot of things for his people and besides he is not going to be ruling for the next ten years. He has got his reasons for staying in power that long - it is good for us Zimbabweans and it shall come to pass. Tell me one country in the West that did not go through what Zimbabwe is facing.
Marshall, Harare, Zimbabwe
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