As Zimbabwe’s election commission continued to withhold the results of the March 29 national election, President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai sharpened their attacks on each other. Mugabe’s justice minister accused Tsvangirai of “treason” for allegedly plotting with Britain to remove Mugabe through force. (International Herald Tribune) Tsvangirai, who is widely believed to have garnered a significantly larger share of votes than Mugabe, suggested that the president and others in power should face criminal charges before an international tribunal. (CNN)
What the commentators said
The fact that the results are still secret “says a lot,” said The New York Times in an editorial (free registration). They’d have been “instantly proclaimed” if Mugabe won. Tsvangirai says he won outright, but “there is no way to know.” What we do know is that Mugabe’s “goons” are trying to “coerce” election officials into “falsifying enough votes to at least force a runoff,” and then intimidating voters to switch to Mugabe in the second round.
Mugabe’s “blunt repression” seems to be working, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Zimbabweans are “frightened and unwilling to stick their necks out,” and the violence makes a second round of voting “all but impossible.” But if “a lost election, inflation at 200,000%, and the contempt of his people can’t budge the octogenarian” Mugabe, his African neighbors must. If the “stolen Zimbabwe election” is met with “closed regional eyes,” it “reinforces the worst stereotypes about Africa.”
So let Zimbabweans vote, said Zimbabwe’s state-run Bulawayo Chronicle in an editorial. Zimbabwe’s electoral commission “received accolades from different corners of the globe” for its management of the election, and the nation should “be allowed to conclude its electoral process without undue pressure.” Despite the “bullying tactics of Britain and America,” and an opposition that is “obviously pushing the agenda of their masters” in the West, Zimbabwe is a “sovereign country,” and it will “decide its own destiny.”
Actually, Britain and other donor nations aren’t doing enough, said Ishbel Matheson in The Times of London. The “real lesson” from the Zimbabwe election is that “the ‘Big Man’ culture of the all-powerful African presidency is alive and well—while democracy is in intensive care.” African nations won’t “shout ‘cheat’” on their neighbors, so Britain and the U.S. have to, and use their purse strings as leverage.