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Tuesday, April 1, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

This weekend, Zimbabwe had presidential and legislative elections. I must confess, that despite a long-standing interest in the case, I did not pay too much attention to the results as they started coming out on Monday, as I assumed (with cause) that Robert Mugabe (perpetrator of one of the most remarkable destructions of a national economy that had nothing to do with military invasion that I can think of) would cook the books, making the election a moot process. And, indeed, that may yet be the outcome.

However, this situation may well be more interesting that I originally thought that it would be. Initial reports, as noted at Fruits and Votes (Was Mugabe trounced?), showed that Mugabe was headed for an potentially devastating defeat. Current reports show that Mugabe is losing, both in terms of the presidency and in terms of his party in the legislature.

According to the BBC:

An independent monitoring group says opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai got 49% of the vote - just short of the 50% needed to avoid a run-off.

The NYT reports:

a network of civic groups issued its own projection of how the vote would turn out, if legitimately counted. It estimated that the main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, would receive 47 percent to 51.8 percent, while Mr. Mugabe would get 39.2 percent to 44.4 percent.

The exact numbers matter greatly, as under Zimbabwe’s electoral system, the winner must have an absolute majority, so if Tsvangirai fails to achieve 50%, Mugabe will have a shot at him in a secnd round of voting.

The seeds of conflict over the numbers have already been planted, even as we wait for official results, however (again, via the NYT):

Mr. Tsvangirai’s party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has already used the posted results to declare victory, though its reading of the numbers is extravagant by comparison. Tendai Biti, the party’s secretary general, said Monday that unofficial tallies of more than half the votes showed Mr. Tsvangirai with 60 percent and Mr. Mugabe with 30 percent.

In regards to the legislature (via the BBC):

Ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition are very close in the parliamentary vote.

Zanu-PF has 64 parliamentary seats, while the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has 67 in total, with 79 seats still not declared, according to official results.

Five of the opposition seats have gone to a breakaway faction of the MDC.

All of this is building towards a likely conflagration. If Mugabe wins in the context of perceptions that he lost, one would expect a violent reaction from the opposition. Indeed, given the grim economic circumstances that includes inflations rates of mind-boggling proportions,1 massive joblessness and serious food shortages, one suspects that the opposition will not see that they have much of anything to lose. On the other hand, the security apparatus has already sent signals that they would not back an opposition winner. Specifically (via the BBC, Key role for Mugabe’s security chiefs ):

In the run-up to the polls, the head of the army, the police and the prison service said they would only serve Mr Mugabe, not any “puppet” - the president’s favourite term for the opposition.

[…]

“We will not allow any puppets to take charge,” Mr Chihuri said two weeks before the polls.

“Most of us in here are truly owners of the land,” he said.

“This is the sovereignty we should defend at all costs because for us to get at this point others had to lose their lives. At this point our gains should never be reversed.”

More as the story develops.

  1. The inflation rate topped 100,000% in February—and no, that’s not a typo. []
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