Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, after 33 years of brutal misrule, seeks another term

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“There is no question that these elections will not be perfect, that they have not been well-organized or well-financed, but they should go forward,” said Johnnie Carson, a senior adviser at the U.S. Institute for Peace who served as assistant secretary of state for African affairs until March.

“It does offer an opportunity for change and the beginning of a political renewal in Zimbabwe,” added Mr. Carson, who also has served as U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has prevented Western observers from monitoring the election.

In early voting, more than half the 70,000 security and government officials eligible to vote were unable to cast  ballots because they were not printed and delivered on time.

After the 2008 elections, the Southern African Development Community brokered a settlement that produced a national unity government with Mr. Mugabe as president and Mr. Tsvangirai as prime minister. The government was tasked with drafting a new constitution and instituting political reforms.

While a new constitution is in place, reforms, which would have played a crucial role in ensuring a credible vote, are not.

“The power-sharing agreement led to an ending of the violence; that is its first and foremost achievement,” said John Campbell, a senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“What it has been unable to do is carry through the political reforms that many of Zimbabwe’s foreign friends think are necessary.”

Reputation tarnished

Mr. Tsvangirai’s role in the unity government has tarnished his reputation. He has failed to prevent any of the human rights abuses that continued after the unity government was formed.

“There is criticism that, in effect, [Mr. Tsvangirai] and his political party have been co-opted by the ZANU-PF,”  Mr. Campbell said.

Mr. Mugabe’s advanced age, meanwhile, has fueled speculation about a likely successor.

“After the elections are over, and should Mr. Mugabe die, we can anticipate a fair amount of infighting,” Mr. Campbell said.

Among those likely to succeed Mr. Mugabe are Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, the army chief; Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa; Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa; and State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi — all of whom are considered hard-liners — or Vice President Joice Mujuru, a moderate.

The United States, which has imposed sanctions against Mr. Mugabe and his party’s leadership, is constrained in its ability to press the government of Zimbabwe to hold credible elections.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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