What happened
Zimbabwe’s electoral council is due to release presidential election results Friday, as tensions rise during a crackdown by Robert Mugabe’s government on the opposition and the media. Zimbabwe’s state newspaper said Mugabe, who has run the country for 28 years, would probably have to face a run-off against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, whose supporters have claimed victory. (CNN International) Election officials announced earlier this week that Mugabe and his party have lost control of the nation’s Parliament. (The New York Times, free registration)

What the commentators said
Here we go, said Catherine Philp and Jan Raath in the London Times Online. The raids on the offices of opposition politicians and foreign journalists could be the beginning of a “campaign of intimidation” many have warned that Mugabe would use to avoid being pushed out of power. The government has said that “Mugabe was in no mood for surrender and was gearing up to fight on,” so violence may be the next step.

“In the absence of a parliament to hold him accountable,” said Levi Mhaka in The Zimbabwe Guardian (London), Mugabe is essentially running the country by himself right now. He fired his Cabinet two days before the election. So he’s working behind the scenes to prepare a run-off in an election he lost, and he’s clearly willing to do what it takes to ensure his “political survival and protection of his legacy.”

The loss of a majority in parliament will at least diminish power of “the 84-year-old dictator,” said the National Review in an editorial. And that’s a welcome surprise—“not because anybody expected him to win an honest election, but because an honest election was not expected.” Mugabe simply has no choice but to loosen his grip now that his policies have “turned ‘the breadbasket of Africa’ into a basket case” with 80-percent unemployment, and 10,000 percent inflation—each month. “It appears the collapsed economy has diminished his efficacy; even thugs have to make payroll.”