Zimbabwe's prime minister and main opposition leader has said his party is ready to contest elections on July 31 despite fears that the poll is taking place before democratic reforms can be completed.
At a gathering on Sunday to begin his Movement for Democratic Change party's three-week campaign, Morgan Tsvangirai said he has had to bow to pressure for an early vote.
It was Tsvangirai's first official acceptance of the July date set by President Robert Mugabe.
He said he had read "the national mood" of ordinary Zimbabweans, eager to vote Mugabe out and end years of suffering in a political and economic crisis created by his ZANU-PF party.
"The national mood is people want to stop the suffering they have experienced under Mugabe," Tsvangirai said.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.
Mugabe set the national vote for the end of July arguing that he was obeying a court ruling following a private lawsuit that was brought against him ordering him to call for early polls.
Tsvangirai had appealed against the July polls, saying the date did not give the nation enough time to carry out reforms in the police and military, which are widely blamed for state-orchestrated violence and intimidation in previous elections.
Mugabe was forced to form a coalition government with Tsvangirai by regional leaders after violent and disputed elections in 2008.
Tsvangirai said under the power-sharing government, Mugabe needs his consent before an election can be declared. However, there was no consultation.
He told about 20,000 supporters gathered at a football stadium in Marondera that he was going to the polls with "a heavy heart" because Mugabe had not kept his word on reforming electoral laws that critics say allow widespread vote-rigging.
Mugabe said on Friday that his ZANU-PF party would put up the "fight of our lives'' to regain waning support in urban areas, strongholds of Tsvangirai, and extend his 33-year rule.
"You are our soldiers, you have a battle to fight. Go into the battle well-armed," he said.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies