Some notes on the atrocities going on in the countryside. It seems strange, but I haven't felt any real threat from that kind of violence -- for years, Mugabe has been careful about where he places violence and whom he targets. All of the people who are suffering at the moment are either opposition leaders, or poor blacks from rural areas. There's been some violence in the cities, but that's concentrated in the townships (what they call the ghettos, which are miles from the center of town), or at opposition rallies (court orders allowing the rallies notwithstanding).
As for the MDC pulling out of the run-off, it's still too early to tell how that will play out -- we only just heard about it last night. But I'm very hopeful that it will mean some reduction in violence. I'm convinced that it's a good move -- even if Mugabe doesn't call off his dogs straight away, pulling out of the run-off has concentrated international attention on Zim in a whole new way, and seems to have dealt the coup de grace to Mugabe's credibility. Maybe more importantly, it's shifted huge pressure onto Thabo Mbeki to actually mediate some sort of solution instead of pursuing the "wait and see" approach. At least that's the common wisdom at this point, who knows what it's worth. But without any need to intimidate the electorate, and with the whole world suddenly watching, and arguably having won his way, I see little reason for Mugabe to keep waging de facto war. Hell, I could even see this turning into an exciting time, if they manage to come to some sort of power-sharing agreement. And if all that happens is a restoration of the status quo, so be it.