Sunday, March 30, 2008

Norman Geras on the Zimbabwean elections

Yesterday I posted a roundup of items on the Zimbabwean elections (Elections today in Zimbabwe), beginning with an assessment by Dayo Olopade that cut to the heart of the matter:
There is no room for middling outcomes—Saturday’s elections in Zimbabwe will either be historic or painfully routine.
But now I see that could simply have re-posted a cogent and penetrating discussion by Norman Geras (below). Norm knows and cares a lot about Zimbabwe; he was born there (before it became Zimbabwe) and has maintained an active and informed interest in the country. His post yesterday asked "Will Zimbabwe's Elections Be Free?" and listed 10 good reasons to expect otherwise, concluding:
I hesitate to predict what is going to happen. Could this election herald the beginning of the end of Zimbabwe’s agony? I would like to be able to hope so. But I fear that it won’t — indeed that the country may be on the brink of worse yet, post-election violence either if Mugabe loses or if there is a widespread sense that he has won fraudulently. Whatever happens, the words of Petina Gappah, a Zimbabwean writer and lawyer, are apposite in the circumstances. She speaks of “the lie that taking power from the colonialists and delivering democracy to the people are one and the same.”
(See also his related post at normblog.)

=> Today's reports indicate that, despite everything, Zimbabwe's voters handed Mugabe a decisive defeat, which represents a major achievement both for the democratic opposition and for the Zimbabwean people--but, so far, Mugabe shows no signs of being willing to relinquish his grip on power. As Norm pointed out, Mugabe and his henchmen have repeatedly warned that they would not accept electoral defeat (any more than the Burmese military dictatorship accepted Aung San Suu Kyi's overwhelming victory in Burma's last election in 1990). Now we all have to wait and see what happens next.

Yours for democracy,
Jeff Weintraub
==============================
Norman Geras (at Pajamas Media)
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Will Zimbabwe's Elections Be Free?

With a once prosperous country now ruined and hunger widespread there, and the rate of inflation by some estimates at 200,000 percent and rising, one might imagine that Robert Mugabe is on course to lose the election in Zimbabwe this weekend — especially since, as he is reported to be insisting, the election will be fair. Here are ten reasons for doubting this.

1. Observers from countries with a record of being critical of Zimbabwe’s electoral procedures are barred from any monitoring role tomorrow.

2. Zimbabwe’s police and defense chiefs have publicly stated that western-supported “puppets” — which echoes Mugabe’s own reference to the Zimbabwean opposition as “stooges” of Britain — won’t be allowed to govern the country.

3. Police, it has been reported, are to have access to voting booths, supposedly to help the handicapped.

4. Human Rights Watch says there has been widespread intimidation by supporters of the ruling party.

5. Amnesty International also has reports of arrests of opposition campaign workers.

6. The Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network reports the pulling down of opposition election posters and improper use of state resources for the ruling party’s campaign.

7. The lights were out one evening at the Victoria Falls Hotel: “As one of the managers explained: ‘The opposition is having a rally in the stadium so they have turned off the electricity. Don’t worry, it’ll be turned back on when they leave.’ Sure enough, at 6.30 p.m. sharp the lights abruptly burst into life.”

8. There are the names of dead people on the electoral rolls and of ghost voters whose addresses place them on totally empty plots of ground.

9. The opposition claim: “leaked documents showed that 9 million ballot papers were ordered for the 5.9 million people registered to vote next Saturday, and that 600,000 postal ballot papers were requisitioned for a few thousand soldiers, police, and civil servants away from their home districts and for diplomats and their families abroad.”

10. Mugabe speaks with a kind of certainty about the outcome that is troubling in the light of all the points above: “Tsvangirai will never, never rule this country.”

I hesitate to predict what is going to happen. Could this election herald the beginning of the end of Zimbabwe’s agony? I would like to be able to hope so. But I fear that it won’t — indeed that the country may be on the brink of worse yet, post-election violence either if Mugabe loses or if there is a widespread sense that he has won fraudulently. Whatever happens, the words of Petina Gappah, a Zimbabwean writer and lawyer, are apposite in the circumstances. She speaks of “the lie that taking power from the colonialists and delivering democracy to the people are one and the same.”

Norman Geras, who was born in Zimbabwe, is Professor Emeritus in Politics at the University of Manchester. He blogs at normblog.

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