An election of sorts


Both President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have been boasting that they expect to win handsome victories over the other in Zimbabwe’s election tomorrow. Political analysts, on the other hand, say the contest between the two bitter rivals is likely to be close. Many fear that an indecisive result and second-round vote may push the country back into the violence that marred the aftermath of the 2008 election and saw up to 200 dead, largely at the hands of Mugabe supporters in Zanu-PF and the army.

Although both leaders say they will accept the result, and the campaign has so far been free of violence, several senior officers have made clear they will not accept Tsvangirai .

The election, rushed by Mugabe to wrongfoot the opposition, sees a country that has begun to recover economically, with shops full, agriculture reviving, and a new confidence particularly in its middle class, but now faltering, economists say, because of the uncertainty of the election.

Prices are high and mass unemployment persists – put variously at 70 to 85 per cent. Currency stability – in 2008 inflation hit 231,000,000 per cent – has been restored with the adoption of multiple currencies. Credit is being given to finance minister Tendai Biti although polling shows that his and Tsvangirai’s MDC-T has lost substantial support to dissident rivals the MDC-N and old Mugabe rivals, Zapu.

For the frail Mugabe, now 89, the election represents a chance to undo the much-resented necessity for sharing power with Tsvangirai and extend his 30-year rule. As usual, he is not much bothered about how he gets his majority – widespread electoral fraud is being alleged, with up to one million dead or emigrated appearing on the rolls. The sense that this is the old man’s last throw of the dice has also opened up deep succession divisions within Zanu-PF between reformers and a nationalist old guard determined to press on with “black economic empowerment”, land seizures and the expropriation of foreign-owned industry.

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