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Zimbabwe: Don’t Hold Your Breath

Across the world yesterday, hope was rife that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe would actually step down, rather than try to steal the election he had just lost. Such news made the front page of today’s New York Times. Things have become so bad in Zimbabwe that, amidst the dizzying good news of election returns in the opposition’s favor, rumors of Mugabe’s departure began to spread. But as with so many reports of Robert Mugabe’s imminent demise, these too were greatly exaggerated.

Today, The Herald, a state-run newspaper, says that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will report that no candidate gained a majority in the presidential race. The ZEC will also certify a tie in the parliamentary elections between the ruling ZANU-PF and opposition MDC, thus triggering a runoff between Mugabe and his main opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai. Yesterday, there was speculation that Mugabe would step down rather than submit himself to the humiliation of a runoff. But this speculation was baseless: losing at the polls is far more humiliating for a dictator who has served for nearly three decades than giving election theft a second try.

The New York Times reports:

A Zimbabwean businessman with close links to the ruling party, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the nation’s military and intelligence chiefs discussed several options with the president after the vote appeared to go badly. These included the outright rigging of the election, going to a runoff and even the “elimination” of Mr. Tsvangirai. [Emphasis added]

Yesterday’s optimism was unfounded. This is not the sort of regime that allows anyone else to win elections.


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