While many of us recognize that elections and election cycles are not ideas to define democracy by, when nation-states built around the workability of electoral politics have trouble achieving the resemblance of a democratic election by popular vote, there is greater cause for worry.
Robert Mugabe, the incumbent President of Zimbabwe, has been known to actively support political cronyism, violence against the people of Zimbabwe, murderous suppression of public protest, and the enforcement of crippling social policies. This once prosperous South African neighbor is currently experiencing the worst inflation rate in the world, now pegged at over 150,000 percent. Zimbabwe also has the lowest life expectancy in the world. Female life expectancy stands at 34 years, while for males it is 37 years. And Zimbabwe has one of the world’s worst AIDS epidemics, with little or no access to antiretroviral drugs.
The late results from the elections held on Saturday in Zimbabwe were announced yesterday, yet the ZANU-PF government reported that since no clear winner was found, runoff voting will take place on April 19th. This has raised levels of tension and anticipation within the country and internationally. Sokwanele.com is the website for an independent election watching organization in Zimbabwe. They also appear to support the opposition party, the MDC. Based on their data, the candidate from the MDC has already achieved the 50% margin needed to take office. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, another independent group, said the results were 49% MDC and 42% ZANU-PF.
Everyone is confused. All over the blogosphere, bloggers are calling for Zimbabweans to exercise peace and calm till the next results are announced so as not to give Mugabe the justification to unleash violence against the people using the state’s armed forces.
After 28 years of “Rule by Mugabe”, many expected him to be voted out of office. Yet the time lag for the election results were suspicious. “It’s clear that [Mugabe] has lost the vote,” said Dumisani Muleya, a political reporter at the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper.
Advocating change, Martin Meenagh said on sokwanele.com that “It might be that in the dark, you reconcile yourself to the idea that your light is the only one in the darkness, and that it must be hidden behind your eyes because the winds would blow it out.”
Bright Matonga, the government’s Deputy Information Minister, told the BBC that the opposition was being “irresponsible” and “mischievous.” Only the electoral commission has the legal privilege to announce results in Zimbabwe. ZANU-PF officials have threatened to punish anyone who makes their own representation about vote results and totals, as the opposition has in fact already done.
Matonga said the opposition thinks it can “provoke ZANU-PF and the police and the army.”
Al Jazeera reported that state police were seen “manning a number of roadblocks” for checkpoint security in the capital today, but no other signs of oppressive police planning are known as of yet. The South African indymedia website occasionally mentions the ongoing political crisis and violence in Zimbabwe, and may be a valuable source of information if another crackdown does occur.