A Disputed Election in Zimbabwe… Again – RantAWeek

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A Disputed Election in Zimbabwe… Again

Posted by Tyler Miksanek on August 9, 2013 at 11:01 pm
Zimbabwe's hyperinflation in 2008 forced the nation to print a 100 trillion dollar denomination of its currency.  While Zimbabwe's currency has since been abandoned, the country has hardly improved.

Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation in 2008 forced the nation to print a 100 trillion dollar denomination of its currency. While Zimbabwe’s currency has since been abandoned, the country has hardly improved.

Zimbabwe has had a rough recent history.  Back in 2008, hyperinflation ruined the country’s monetary system, devastating the economy and leaving a poor country even worse off than it was before.  Unfortunately, little has improved in the years since.  The country has ditched its flawed currency and now uses the U.S. dollar, among other currencies, as de facto modes of trade.  But while this has largely solved Zimbabwe’s inflationary woes, the country has plenty of additional problems that are hindering its progress.

Foremost among these roadblocks to Zimbabwe’s general welfare is an ongoing scuffle over the nation’s presidency.  A strongman who has ruled the country since 1987, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe found himself in danger of losing the 2008 elections to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.  However, a skewed first round result and violence against his supporters leading up to the runoff cheated Tsvangirai out of the presidency and forced him to end his candidacy.  But another twist of fate occurred when Mugabe, facing increased scrutiny from his neighbors over the contested election and rampant hyperinflation, was coerced into accepting a power sharing agreement with Tsvangirai.

In fairness, the power sharing agreement actually allowed for a relative period of calm in Zimbabwe’s politics, even though it was far short from helping spur democratic change.  Mugabe kept his role as president, but Tsvangirai was placed as the nation’s prime minister.  Zimbabwe’s politics were far from ideal, but at least there was stability and some semblance of legitimacy.

But power-hungry Mugabe was apparently not satiated by the agreement and being in the uncomfortable position of having his political rival as Prime Minister.  In a surprise move earlier this year, he called for a new round of presidential elections with a rushed election date that would not give his opponents, including Tsvangirai, much time to prepare.  With a rushed date and voter rolls skewed in his favor, its no surprise that Mugabe re-won the presidency.  Tsvangirai’s party is unlikely to continue working with Mugabe, meaning what little success the power sharing agreement brought is probably over.

A rigged election in a nation like Zimbabwe is hardly an unexpected occurrence.  However, the surprising side of the story is that, while the election was clearly unfair, entities including South Africa and the African Union appeared to accept the results with some degree of legitimacy.  This represents the first step to what could be a dangerous trend, as even a begrudgingly condoning attitude towards Mugabe’s power grabbing demonstrates that two of the African continent’s most important institutions – the regional power of South Africa and the international community of the A.U. – are unwilling to tackle some of the continent’s most blatant abuses of authority.  If Africa wants to move forward to a better, more democratic future, it needs to be willing to at least recognize its own problems.

The A.U.’s blind eye is one thing.  While the African Union has accomplished a lot of good for the continent, some leaders of its member nations have the same power-grabbing, election-rigging biographies as Mugabe.  Criticizing Mugabe would not only be hypocritical but also against their own interests.  However, the rest of the international community, including regional powers and functioning democracies like South Africa, need to step up their pressure on unfair elections like Zimbabwe’s.  International pressure has previously persuaded Mugabe to back off, even if it was just a little, from his tyranny.  And no matter what, if international pressure can’t help Zimbabwe’s politics, it sure can’t make them much worse.


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