Zimbabwe elections: Will the world stop Mugabe?
President Robert Mugabe is 'preparing for war,' according to the main opposition leader.
Johannesburg, South Africa; and Harare, Zimbabwe
With President Robert Mugabe taking the unusual step of claiming electoral "errors and miscalculations" by his own handpicked Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the stage now is set for the 84-year-old leader to challenge his party's loss of its parliamentary majority and to claim an outright presidential victory in the March 29 elections.Skip to next paragraph
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Strong-armed tactics by Mr. Mugabe's police, threats of violence by his loyal armed militias, and an unwillingness to concede defeat in what African observers claim was a "free and fair" election are now putting the international community into a difficult spot. If Mugabe refuses to give up power, what will or can the outside world do?
"I think besides the [United Nations], the region – including members of the Southern African Development Community – is going to take an increasing role in Zimbabwe," says Chris Maroleng, a Zimbabwe expert at the Institute for Security Studies in Tshwane, as Pretoria, South Africa is now called. "[Mugabe] has lost the plot. He has always given the seeming appearance of legality in the past, but with claiming that his own ZEC has rigged the elections against him, he's overstepped himself."
For years, African leaders have told the world they can solve their own problems through regional bodies such as the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). But critics say that African leaders have been quite reluctant to confront one of their own, especially a liberation-era leader such as Mugabe, and that regional mediation efforts such as those instigated by South African President Thabo Mbeki have generally encouraged a continuation of the status quo rather than a pursuit of justice or democratic principles.
If Mugabe overturns the results of the elections to remain in power, the key test of African regional problem solving will be to see what his neighbors – all avowed proponents of democracy – will do.
A wait-and-see approach
In London, Mr. Mbeki – the man selected by the SADC last year to mediate a settlement between Mugabe and the opposition ahead of the election – urged patience this weekend. "It's time to wait," Mbeki told reporters in London. "Let's see the outcome of the election results."
For its part, Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has continued to assert its legitimacy as the rightful victors.
Over the weekend, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai released tabulated results, posted by the ZEC outside each polling station, claiming victory with 50.3 percent over Mugabe's 42.9 percent. An independent group, Zimbabwean Election Support Network, put the figures at 49.4 percent and 41.8 percent respectively, indicating that it would be necessary to hold a runoff vote within three weeks.
The state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper reported that Mugabe's party was challenging election results from 16 parliamentary seats, including four constituencies in the Mberengwa area, implying that the ZEC had skewed election results in favor of the opposition.
"As will soon become apparent, the constituency elections officer and his team committed errors of miscounting that are so glaring as to prejudice not just our clients' candidate," but also ruling ZANU-PF party candidates running for Parliament, the ZANU-PF said in a letter of complaint to the ZEC, quoted by the Sunday Mail.