Endgames for Zimbabwe's Mugabe
Voters handed Zimbabwe's president a pink slip, but he's determined to ignore them.
Can't he see it? Can't Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's strongman, see that the jig is up – if not today, then in the not-too-distant future? Even without official election results to spell it out, it's clear that the majority of Zimbabweans have rejected his leadership after nearly three decades.
Millions of desperate Zimbabweans had already voted with their feet, fleeing into neighboring countries such as South Africa in order to escape hyperinflation, mass unemployment, and scarce food – this in the country formerly known as Africa's breadbasket.
The March 29 local and national elections only confirmed their desertion, but this seems to have surprised the octogenarian ruler and the loyalists in his ruling ZANU-PF party.
After announcing the results for parliament – in which the opposition MDC overtook ZANU-PF for the first time since independence in 1980 – the election office shamefully refused to give out the presidential tally. An independent compilation of votes showed that 58.2 percent of Zimbabweans voted against Mr. Mugabe. The lion's share of votes went to Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC, who got 49.4 percent versus Mugabe's 41.8 percent, setting the country up for a presidential runoff election, according to the independent ballot count. (Mr. Tsvangirai says he won outright.)
Mugabe's strategy now is to hang on by whatever means possible – through his stacked judiciary and friendly election office, through violence to intimidate voters in a possible run-off, and perhaps even through a state of emergency.