Monday, April 04, 2005

Zimbabwe needs Dubya 

A disappointed but resolute opposition in Zimbabwe is agitating for big changes to the electoral system and constitution following a defeat in the recent election. (The Washington Post, of course, has a different understanding of the circumstances) This, along with the ongoing Darfur debacle, seems like it could be the first real test of the President's exhalant new foreign policy. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate to his critics here and elsewhere that he is committed to catalyzing global change via US influence.
Zimbabwe's crooked ruling party has had a grip on elections for some time, and President-for-Life Mugabe has vowed that he will violently put down any protests to the vote count. Not feeling particularly legitimate, are we? Several weeks ago I posted on the apparent pro-democracy reforms in Zimbabwe, and noted that elections do not make a democracy. Mugabe is another of the "Elected once" elected dictators who justify their continued sham re-election by referencing a sham election that got them into power to begin with. Opposition members are alleging all manner of abuse, including appointing party officials to man election posts and stuffing ballot boxes in tight districts. Unlike Ukraine, however, the people of Zimbabwe will have little outlet to call for a recount or revote, and its doubtful such a vote would even occur. This is perhaps the most critical piece of information:
Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, appoints 30 additional members of the 150-seat legislature, boosting ZANU-PF's majority past the two-thirds mark which allows it to change the constitution at will.

Mugabe has urged the opposition to accept defeat.

Big surprise. Of course, the UN is pretty much powerless at this point, and whatever influence they have is being used procrastinating on Darfur (a worthy subject of attention nonetheless), so it falls to the President. It wouldn't take much, but even just a mention in a speech or address might be enough to draw some global attention to another country at risk of being left behind by the spread of democracy.

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