Voters in Zimbabwe went to the polls Friday in a run-off election with only one remaining candidate—longtime President Robert Mugabe. Members of Mugabe’s military were reportedly forcing people to vote, but opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who won the first round but withdrew because of deadly attacks on his supporters, urged voters to stay home if they could do so safely. (Bloomberg)
What the commentators said
Realistically, Mugabe “can be toppled only by a military coup,” said Paul Collier in the Sydney, Austrailia, Morning Herald. He is “fully aware of this danger,” of course, and has surrounded himself with “cronies as generals.” But coups are more effective than elections at sweeping away brutal third-world dictators. The tricky question is how to encourage and guide an uprising “while staying within the bounds of proper international conduct.”
"Mugabe's loyalist militias have used every dirty dictator's trick" to steal this election, said the Cleveland Plain Dealer in an editorial. But "Relying on an unpopular octogenarian whose days are numbered is a bad long-term strategy for army generals and government officials who hope to live long and prosper." The U.S. and Britain should convince "this murderous lot" that they're backing the wrong man.
If the international community intervenes, said Timothy Garton Ash in the Los Angeles Times, what exactly should it do? Invading is one option, but we can also work for a "stronger U.N. resolution," refuse to recognize Mugabe as Zimbabwe's leader, shame business investors, shame Mugabe himself, form petitions, and sanction the country. These measures, "taken together, won't get rid of the monster," but they will give Zimbabweans help in pushing for democratic change.
No, this is exactly the time for "armed foreign intervention," said Investor's Business Daily in an editorial. "The country is collapsing," and the violence in Zimbabwe will soon "spill across borders." African states, with the backing of the United Nations, "must recognize this threat and intervene," or they will lose their own legitimacy and disappoint citizens who "dream of being real and prosperous democracies instead of sham 'democracies' whose regimes only benefit tyrants."