Zimbabweans headed to the polls this past Saturday (March 29th) in a historic vote challenging President Robert Mugabe’s 28-year iron grip on the presidency.
The challenging party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), announced soon after the polls closed that they were in the lead. According to the BBC, as of Monday night, (March 31) they claimed that their candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, had won with 60% of the vote.
While Mugabe has intimated that he will honor the people’s decision, the delay in announcing the decision has many fearing the worst.
Rumors abound of election rigging:
According to the UK’s Sunday Mirror, the Zimbabwean Government ordered nine million ballot papers despite the fact that only 5.9million people were in fact elgible to vote→ to some this smells of ballot box stuffing.
The Economist notes that in one location, African monitors found that 8,500 voters were registered with addresses that turned out to be vacant land → to many this signifies Mugabe’s use of so-called “ghost voters”
As of Tuesday (April 1), while there were still no official results, members of Mugabe’s party are increasingly hinting at a run-off election in the works. According to Zimbabwe’s election law, if no one wins wins 51% of the vote, a run-off must be held.
In many ways it may not matter if the vote was rigged or not. If Mugabe is declared the winner after such a long delay and amid such rumors there will be violence.
Riot police can already be seen around Harare, seen as the seat of the opposition to Mugabe.
Mugabe has long been a thorn in the international community’s side. Secretary of State Rice stated on Saturday that,
“His [Mugabe’s] regime is a disgrace to the people of Zimbabwe and to Africa as a whole.”
During his tenure, Zimbabwe’s economy has plunged deeper and deeper into crisis—the country now has the highest inflation in the world at 100,000 per cent and the lowest life expectancy worldwide at merely 37 years.