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Democracy: Is there promise in the polls? by underground

Death of a nation – Part Two: Democracy: Is there promise in the polls?

Following the first vote in March there was an air of excitement, as interested parties and onlookers envisaged the coming end of an era. Zimbabwe and the world waited in suspense for the results to come, expecting the worst, hoping for the best. Indications showed the MDC had fared well, and Mugabe’s Zanu-PF was looking at electoral defeat. As time dragged on, punters speculated the outcome and the likely consequences: Will Mugabe attempt to stuff the ballots in his favour, or will he negotiate a dignified exit? The MDC even engaged in dialogue with the military and some Zanu-PF members of parliament. The Zimbabwean electoral commission took an age to release results, first confirming MDC success in the parliamentary polls, before declaring that no candidate had reached the necessary majority of votes in the presidential election. In keeping with Zimbabwean Electoral Law, a run off vote would have to be taken, between Tsvangirai, who received 49 per cent of the votes, and Mugabe, who received only 41 per cent.

Accusations of vote rigging and political violence marred the legitimacy of the vote, casting doubt on the result. The MDC estimated an extra 3.5 million ballot papers had been printed. The lack of foreign observers and the ban on almost all foreign media ensured a blanket was placed over the country, and Mugabe could do as he please. Despite this, Tsvangirai still showed the lack of support there is within Zimbabwe for Mugabe, which must have demoralised the man. However, if anyone thought he would walk away lightly, they were wrong. Mugabe simply stepped up the ante, rallying against the West in speeches, continuing political attacks, arresting dissidents, and brutalising villages of MDC supporters. With the violence escalating, Tsvangirai made what must have been an incredibly difficult decision and withdrew from the runoff, effectively handing Mugabe the victory and with it the presidency.

Conditions as of today do not permit the holding of a credible poll. We can’t ask the people to cast their vote on June 27 when that vote will cost their lives. We will no longer participate in this violent sham of an election.” Tsvangirai, June 22.

Many have criticised Tsvangirai’s decision to withdrawal. Initially I too was disappointed, when I imagined victory to be almost a certainty for him, considering the first poll result. However it became evident that it was naïve to think Mugabe would just walk away, handing over his job without a fight. And with the increasing violence and political arrests, withdrawal was the only humane thing to do. As fellow journalism student James Murray rightly put it: “It is exactly this decision that contrasts him from despots such as Mugabe. His respect for humanity and human life distinguishes him from leaders for whom power is everything.” Instead of prolonging the violence and remaining in the race, Tsvangirai proved to the world just how brutal Mugabe was, and decided not to provoke a possible civil war.

Before the farcical presidential election runoff Tsvangirai had hoped to postpone the election until a later date, once political violence had ceased. With the conflict raging, fair and free elections cannot take place. Tsvangirai was right to pull out. Such polls can all too easily be undermined by vote rigging or intimidation. When the climate is safe for a fair election, with international observers and media presence, Mugabe is sure to come out second best at the ballot box.

Morgan is best not to hold his breath though.

Part Three: Diplomacy: Can’t we just talk about it?

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[…] Democracy: Is there promise in the polls? […]

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[…] Democracy: Is there promise in the polls? […]

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