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Take half a loaf in Zimbabwe

Despite violence, the opposition should agree to a presidential runoff election.

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In Zimbabwe, despair flows with the force of the Victoria Falls on its northern border. The African country used to sparkle like the rainbow over the falls until strongman Robert Mugabe led it to economic, social, and political ruin. Now there's a chance to turn him out – if it isn't lost in a mist of despair.

The most recent cause for popular dismay is parliamentary and national elections that have turned deadly. After 28 years in power, Mr. Mugabe was defeated in the March 29 poll – great joy! – but apparently not by enough to avoid a runoff that would feature him again.

It took five weeks for Zimbabwe's election commission to release "official" results for the presidential race. During that time, and since, Mugabe supporters have brutally attacked his opponents. Thousands of people have been injured – beaten unconscious, their homes burned – and at least 25 killed in political intimidation.

This on top of a decade of decline in which a country that was once Africa's breadbasket now barely survives on food aid. About a third of its population has fled the country and its 80 percent joblessness and hyperinflation.

Mugabe's party, ZANU-PF, is preparing for a runoff, although a date has yet to be set. But the main opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, has not said whether it will take part. It claims that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, won outright. But the official (delayed) tally put him at 47.9 percent – not the required 50 percent plus 1 to avoid a runoff. Mugabe got 42.3 percent.


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