Some observers say Friday's electoral exercise – complete with voters trucked in to polls and forced to vote under the watchful eyes of Mugabe's police or Army supporters – was merely an effort in crowd control, a warning to opposition leaders that whatever Mugabe's legitimacy on the global stage, he still has control of the Army, the police, and all the levers of government.
"Since liberation, [Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party] has seen elections as a ritual that has to be gone through to give them legitimacy in the eyes of the region, the continent, and the international community," says Ozias Tungwarara, a senior analyst for the Open Society Institute in Johannesburg. "If you give the people even 20 percent of a chance to express themselves, there is no way the Mugabe regime would survive a vote."
Mugabe's regime uses violence to seal off any chance of legitimate political expression, but that level of repression carries its own dangers, says Mr. Tungwarara. "What we are facing now is that most of the methods of expressing oneself are closed out, and in this very repressed environment, it makes a very volatile and dangerous situation," he says.
"Obviously, this means more problems for the country because he will not be accepted as the leader of Zimbabwe, neither locally nor internationally," says Mr. Masunungure. "There should be talks to break the impasse between Mugabe and [Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change]."