- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Only about 15 percent of registered voters turned out for Saturday’s parliamentary “elections” in Zimbabwe. The vote was quiet and orderly, with Zimbabweans registering their opposition to their leader, Robert Mugabe, by staying home. In many districts, electoral officials outnumbered voters. This was an election Mr. Mugabe did not have to steal.

Independent monitors have said the turnout for a new upper chamber of parliament was the lowest in Zimbabwe’s 25-year history as an independent country. Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), called on voters to sit out the vote, but other prominent members of his party rejected the boycott. The MDC fielded 26 candidates. Mr. Mugabe’s party, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, was virtually assured a sweeping victory, due to Mr. Tsvangirai’s boycott and new electoral laws that reserve seats for Mugabe loyalists. Zanu-PF won 24 of the 31 seats that were up for votes, giving it an almost 90 percent majority in the newly created 66-seat Senate chamber. The MDC won seven seats.

After abolishing the Senate in 1987, Mr. Mugabe and his cronies re-created it to dole out new posts to party members. The Senate is composed of 10 traditional chiefs, six Mugabe appointees and 50 elected seats. Zimbabweans overwhelmingly opposed the creation of the new chamber, which will cost about $60 million.

Millions of Zimbabweans are starving and inflation has topped 400 percent. A drought and Mr. Mugabe’s policy of racial retaliation against white farmers have left severe food shortages. Other essential goods are also scarce. Large cities have no fuel to run public transportation and emergency vehicles and have been forced to suspend essential services. The national airline, Air Zimbabwe, has been forced to ground all of its flights.

Mr. Mugabe’s deadly grip has turned the former breadbasket into a wasteland, and for years it has been an embarrassment to South Africa and other free African nations. How bad off does Zimbabwe have to be in order for African powerbrokers to act?



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