Voting underway in Zimbabwe Presidential election

Raj

Zimbabwe once again goes to the polls to elect a new president – the BBC reports.

Polling stations have closed in Zimbabwe, ending voting in elections that will decide whether President Robert Mugabe wins a sixth term. His challengers are Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC party and ex-finance minister and independent Simba Makoni.

Queues formed early, but voting died down later in the day. Some voters complained of irregularities. The MDC feared the poll would be rigged but Mr Mugabe said as he cast his vote in Harare: “We don’t rig elections.”

No, the Zanu-PF doesn’t rig elections – it just stuffs the electoral roll with the names of dead people and prints 50% more ballot papers than there are voters (nothing suspicious with that, is there?).

Let’s be honest. As the Economist says, if the election was free and fair Mugabe would have no real prospect of success. And even with his ability to manipulate the electoral commission, use Police to intimidate voters, etc, Zimbabwe’s economic crisis and the resulting unpopularity makes it difficult for him to claim a victory in the first round. So the question is, will there be enough pressure on him to bow out when inevitably he loses after a second vote, instead of simply declaring himself the winner?

Once again, it may fall to SADC (Southern African Development Community) to take Mugabe to task. For too long it has tolerated his barbaric behaviour simply because he used to be an independence fighter and is still “popular”. Africa often complains that the rest of the world does not take it seriously. Well how can it take Africa seriously if such obvious electoral fraud as has happened in the past is swept under the carpet and elections are declared “free & fair”? SADC members generally opposed Zimbabwe’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations, even though the motion was still carried by the majority (most of whom can hardly be described as members of the “white man’s conspiracy”).

It would be wrong to write off a whole continent due to the actions of one region, but it is true that the inaction of Zimbabwe’s neighbours (especially South Africa) over Mugabe’s reign of terror has damaged African states’ hopes of being treated like serious international players rather than aid-reliant basket-cases.

If Mugabe tries to steal the election again, as he almost certainly will, the rest of Africa must take the opportunity to pressure the old man’s reluctant neighbours into condemning the vote and insist that the second round really is free and fair. If it refuses out of historical prejudice and racism, then Africa’s diplomatic underperformance will continue for years to come.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 18 Comments

Tsvangirai’s lot, the MDC, have already declared victory. Observers say it looked reasonably fair, or at least not as ridiculously rigged as last time. Dunno if Mugabe is going to attempt to steal it again, but things are looking quite positive.
In general I’m not a big fan of the elections=democracy neocon spin, but this is pretty inspiring. People given a choice, choosing to kick the bastards out.

March 30, 2008 @ 11:24 am | Comment

@Phil
Elections=democracy is a Neo-Con spin??? I’m not offended, being a rightist who supports this ‘spin’, but I really thought that was one of those things that liberals and conservatives alike generally agreed upon, and it was really just the communists, totalitarianists, theocratists, and anarchists that objected. Correct me if I’m wrong here.

March 30, 2008 @ 3:18 pm | Comment

All reports of misconduct are products of the biased Western media conspiracy! If you want to know the real truthy-truth about the glorious, mighty, and correct Zimbabwe government, please refer to the latest issue of the correct, mighty, and glorious People’s Daily. It should correct all of your fancy-pants western misconceptions, not only about the Tibetan Autonomous Region (not “Tibet”) but also the glorious government of Zimbabwe.
War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Objectivity is bias.

March 30, 2008 @ 4:35 pm | Comment

Personally, I would like to ask how you could still use the “BBC” as a source? Hurry, and pick up a People’s Daily before they’re all sold out!
After all, the BBC does not recognize that Tibet has always been part of China (which has been ruled by the predecessors of the glorious CCP for 5000, oh what the hell 6000 or 7000 glorious years). Furthermore, it does not recognize all that China has done for the Tibetan heathens in the past 60 years since their 100% peaceful liberation (oh no, no guns at all)! The PLA was completely peaceful, and then all of the sudden, these savages just got violent.
China is friends with many African countries. Due to our traditionally low opinion of dark skin (which leaves many of even the most hateful Chinese nationalists applying skin whitener between posts at anti-cnn.com), we arrogantly assume that the “less advanced” Africans might be dumb enough to actually like our completely f—ed model of government, and that they should be thankful for our glorious, mighty, and correct assistance!
Question the assertion that elections = democracy, indeed.

March 30, 2008 @ 4:44 pm | Comment

Raj, I totally agree with you. But after the tragedy of the stolen election in Kenya, and all the shenanigans that occurred in the elections when I was there, who in Africa is in the moral position to tell Mugabe to step down?

It’s hard to see even where to go to get the problem solved. It’s only going to get worse as Africa’s relative poverty worsens.

Michael

March 30, 2008 @ 5:09 pm | Comment

@ kevininpudong:

Personally, I think the most authoritative source of all is the Harare Herald ;-P

http://www.herald.co.zw/

March 30, 2008 @ 6:22 pm | Comment

Some guy

Ah, yes, the Herald – Mugabe’s fuck-buddies.

They’ve already reported that Mugabe got 57% of the vote – how can they know that when even the opposition MDC, who have been fast to report the results of counting, have only partial results?

Could well be that someone at the Herald got too eager and has blown the fact that the first round of voting has already been fixed – i.e. Mugabe will simply be declared the victor with an imaginary number of votes, regardless of who the electorate actually voted for.

March 30, 2008 @ 8:17 pm | Comment

@Lime – consider yourself corrected.

Elections=democracy is the neocon excuse for what goes on in Iraq. “Yeah, they’re dying by the thousands, we stole their money, and the government’s completely dysfunctional, but they had elections! It’s democracy, innit!”

Liberals know that democracy requires a little more than this. You need some decent social structures, a judiciary that functions and is reasonably balanced (if not independent), a freeish press, some level of grassroots involvement with the politcal process, and some level of commitment among the political elites to actually listening to what people want, not just using elections as figleaves. This is why Russia is not a democracy, despite having just held elections; why Malaysia struggles; why Karimov is still a dictator, despite the elections he’s “won”.

Having said all that, Zimbabwe seems to be proving me wrong – they don’t have any functioning institutions at all, and Mugabe’s still getting kicked out, it seems. It took a famine to get to this point, so it’s hardly the ideal way to go about it, but…
What I meant to say in the original post was that it’s kinda heartwarming, after all the false, rigged, pointless elections we hear about (including those in China), to see an election doing what they’re supposed, at base, to do.

March 30, 2008 @ 8:31 pm | Comment

@Phil
Ah. So you’re saying that elections are an essential part of democracy, but not sufficient in and of themselves. To be fair, I assumed that in your elections=democracy equation, you meant real elections, not rigged ceremonial ones. I don’t think we neocon enthusiasts have ever accused Russia as being a democracy in recent times.
I wouldn’t count your chicken’s before they hatch. There have been a lot of ‘elections’ since the days of Ian Smith.

March 31, 2008 @ 1:47 am | Comment

Could well be that Mugabe has lost, given that the electoral commission is delaying publishing the results.

http://tinyurl.com/yvbtvo

But that’s also worrying because it could be further evidence they’re being cooked by the Zanu-PF to ensure Mugabe can win.

March 31, 2008 @ 3:49 am | Comment

LOL, are your two points there really opposed to one another? Doesn’t the first entail the second?

Man, this sucks. It’s not just the fact that shits like Mugabe exist; it is the huge numbers of people willing to serve them that constantly amazes me.

March 31, 2008 @ 1:52 pm | Comment

Michael, why do children at school join in bullying other kids, even if they won’t do it themselves?

Because the bully is powerful, it makes them feel big and frequently teachers can’t be bothered to get involved because:

a) the bully is the child of a rich & influential parent
b) the bully is the child of a violent parent who has assaulted other teachers and got away with it
c) the teachers couldn’t care less

It’s a sad truth, but such behaviour we see amongst kids is replicated in adulthood.

March 31, 2008 @ 9:44 pm | Comment

“Let’s be honest. As the Economist says, if the election was free and fair Mugabe would have no real prospect of success. ”

So it is economist.com to decide Zimbabwe Presidential election result, but not the voters.

April 1, 2008 @ 1:51 am | Comment

So it is economist.com to decide Zimbabwe Presidential election result, but not the voters.

fatbrick, I’d ask you to stop playing dumb, but I have a feeling you’re being quite honest.

“As the Economist says” does not mean “because the Economist says”. It was a way of introducing the article, as anyone who is not blinkered by prejudice knows that Mugabe can only win by cheating and having the electoral commission simply declare him the victor, or cook the results so he’ll get a second round to find a more efficient way to cheat.

April 1, 2008 @ 3:43 am | Comment

There’s still no word on election results from the presidential vote. Has not even one ward/district finished counting? Who can believe such rubbish – it’s obvious the officials are dithering over how they can fudge Mugabe’s loss.

A number of parliamentary seats have been called – curiouisly enough in pairs/even batches, with half going to the Zanu-PF and the other half to the MDC each time. There was an observation in the times that there was no reason for these particular seats to be announced as they were. Another a sign of manipulation in trying to not show the Zanu-PF losing, despite the fact that government ministers have lost seats.

April 1, 2008 @ 7:08 am | Comment

Michael, why do children at school join in bullying other kids, even if they won’t do it themselves?

Yes, I was thinking of the bullying in school as I wrote it, people recreating in adulthood what they experience as children. Why can’t we learn?

I just re-read Mark Ames’ _Going Postal_ which is a fantastic book on the whole bullying and school
shooting culture of post-Reagan America.

Michael

April 1, 2008 @ 10:50 am | Comment

So Raj, how is it that you are so interested in Zimbabwe? Did you mention a personal connection that I missed?

April 1, 2008 @ 10:50 am | Comment

No ties whatsoever – I have interests in lots of places that I have never been to/have no connections with.

Sometimes it’s good to have non-China blog entries on the PD, so I thought that this was a newsworthy event.

April 1, 2008 @ 8:30 pm | Comment

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