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Zimbabwe on the Brink

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe has apparently held on to power, but in the process he has done his country much more harm than good. Democratic norms have been trashed; violent intimidation has become the government's political tool of choice.

After this sham of an election, the question becomes whether Zimbabwe, a nation that once held great promise for peaceful development, can avert further collapse into chaos.

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That prospect concerns not only beleaguered Zimbabweans, who face vast unemployment and possible famine because of drought and turmoil in the country's farm sector. Also threatened is the wider regional economy, which badly needs foreign investment - although investors have been spooked by Zimbabwe's growing instability.

Hopes to prevent deeper disaster now reside again on the shoulders of Mr. Mugabe. In earlier days, leading a nation liberated from oppressive white rule, he was lauded as a man of vision. Perhaps he can reclaim some of that vision and lead Zimbabwe away from the brink.

The first step would be to renounce the politics of the gun. The thugs associated with his ZANU-PF Party, who kept thousands of voters from casting their ballots, must be called off. The trumped-up charges of treason against opposition leaders must be dropped.

International and regional help is needed to see Zimbabwe through its deep waters. But Mugabe's grab for six more years of power may have alienated many of those who might have offered help.

Reason and reconciliation must somehow find a place in Zimbabwe.