Monday, April 07, 2008

Opposition braced for dirty war as Mugabe clings on to power

Things are about to get more interesting in Zimbabwe. There will be a runoff but as I've stated since I've started covering Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe isn't ready to let go of his position even though he's been President 27 years. From the Sunday Times...
ZIMBABWE was bracing itself yesterday for the possibility that President Robert Mugabe, forced into an expected election runoff against his opposition challenger Morgan Tsvangirai, could mobilise an army of thugs to beat, intimidate and terrify voters, while taking emergency powers to vary the electoral regulations so as to make ballot-stuffing easier.

Both Britain and the United States are exercising strong diplomatic pressure on Mugabe not to follow this route. But some diplomatic observers believe that it may be the ageing despot’s only way of keeping his vow to die in State House.

Mugabe’s deputy information minister, Bright Matonga, who claimed last week that the president’s Zanu-PF party had let him down in the first round of voting, predicted a resounding victory in the second, saying: “We only applied 25% of our energy in the first round. That [the runoff] is when we are going to unleash the other 75%.”

What will be unleashed, according to leaders of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), are war veterans, pro-government militia and the security forces in a display of brute force aimed at enabling Mugabe, 84, to cling to power.

Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, who warned that Mugabe was about to launch a “war against the people” said his party was reluctant to take part in any runoff because of the growing risks of violence. In any case, he argued, there was no need for one because he had won last weekend’s presidential election outright and was already forming a new government.

He called Mugabe a lame duck president who “must concede to allow us to move on with the business of rebuilding and reconstructing the country”.

According to the MDC, Tsvangirai secured 50.3% of the vote, enough to be named president. It is understood that Mugabe’s politburo was briefed on Friday that Tsvangirai had won 47.7%, compared with 43.4% for Mugabe and the remainder for Simba Makoni, a former finance minister expelled by Zanu-PF. If confirmed, this result would require a runoff.

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