Zimbabwe election shows just how effective tyranny can be

August 14, 2013 11:22 pm0 comments by:

Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party dominated the Zimbabwe elections over Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his oppositional Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in July, with the incumbent president receiving 61 percent of the popular vote and the party claiming victory in 158 seats in parliament.

This landslide margin is significant, as Zanu-PF retains control of the executive office with an overwhelming victory, while grabbing over two-thirds of the legislative branch, providing the party with enough support to change the constitution, a dangerous power when it comes time to transition the aging Mugabe to his successor. Zanu-PF may now have the ability to hand pick another dictator to replace Mugabe, with the party’s agenda maintaining continuity.

Amid the apparent success of Zanu-PF and Robert Mugabe, another dangerous precedent has been set: the reaction of the world in the face of irregularities throughout the voting process.  While 61 percent may seem like an insurmountable obstacle for the opposition to cry foul, the reality of the situation remains that through a multi-faceted strategy to alter the results of the vote, Zanu-PF managed to procure over one million votes, just through one single scheme of inserting invalid names into the electoral rolls. By using aged voters names and repeat registrations, Zanu-PF managed to add one million voters to the roll.

This was only one tactic perpetrated by Mugabe and his party. Another tool used to manipulate results included assisted voting, which is designed to help illiterate or infirmed people cast their ballots. While Zimbabwe is considered the most literate country in Africa, with a literacy rate of over 90 percent, at many polling stations between 20-25 percent of the voters were recorded as being assisted, including one section where it is alleged that over half of the 17,400 voters were assisted in casting their ballot. This is a major red flag which contradicts international reliable data regarding literacy. Other strategies utilized seem hard to use in the 21st century, but somehow Mugabe and his cronies managed to push them through. Voters were turned away at many of the MDC stronghold polling stations, a significant number of additional ballots were printed and then subsequently went missing after the election and voters were bussed in from out of district to cast votes for Zanu-PF in MDC dominated areas. All of these actions were done blatantly in front of electoral monitors and reporters. Additionally, tactics designed to impede voters from casting their ballot for the candidate of their choice were installed, as MDC supporters faced intimidation and inconsistent registration policies.

While all of this may seem out of order for any election considered free and fair, the reaction was far more troubling. Despite all of these irregularities in the voting process, in a clear attempt to avoid a runoff situation such as occurred in 2008 when Tsvangirai won the first round of votes with nearly 48 percent, regional leaders and leaders from around the world congratulated Mugabe in his victory. The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) also announced that the elections in Zimbabwe would not be part of their agenda for 2013. The African Union actually praised the election for remaining peaceful, while not addressing the allegations of voter fraud. All of these actions speak volumes about how the region and the continent succumbed to the brutal tactics instilled by Mugabe following the first round of voting in 2008.

Upon learning of his defeat in the first round of the 2008 election, Mugabe unleashed his thugs to intimidate voters in a state-sponsored crackdown that left 200 people dead and forced Tsvangirai to drop out of the runoff. Mugabe then ran unopposed. The fear of similar events in 2013 left continental and regional officials to praise the peacefulness of the electoral process, while ignoring the fraudulent tactics imposed. Mugabe was by no means humble in victory as he stated that the MDC were enemies of the state and that they can “go hang” if they did not like the outcome. He also stated, ““Those who lost elections may commit suicide if they so wish. Even if they die, dogs will not eat their flesh.” Strong words from a man that stole the election and then essentially gloated about it in front of the world.

The unfortunate victim of this outcome remains the people of Zimbabwe. Even if the election irregularities would have had no impact on the results – something that may never be sorted out – the simple fact remains that the people deserve an election not wrought with cheating, intimidation and unfair strategies. The regional and continental leaders cannot be blamed for choosing to acknowledge a peaceful election in place of a fair election, as they do not want to see a repeat of 2008. However, this is just another example of a dictator instilling brutal methods to cling to power. Mugabe flexed his muscles in 2008 and the results were a victory and the terrorisation of his citizens. This time he did not need to invoke any violence as the threat of violence was enough to force world and regional leaders to accept the results.

Unfortunately, this victory may spell the end of the opposition party in Zimbabwe as Zanu-PF now has the capability to manipulate the constitution to ensure that their party and their agenda remain firmly in place. With poor economic strategies formulated by Zanu PF and no change in sight, much of the country’s citizens will continue to suffer. This is a bleak future for the estimated 90 percent of the population that is unemployed due to the Mugabe regime’s mismanagement. A positive direction for Zimbabwe in the short and long term seems to be a pipe dream now.

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