April 6, 2005
ZIMBABWE ELECTION 'NOTHING TO CELEBRATE'
** Dailies condemn Zimbabwe's parliamentary vote as "Mugabe's cynical charade."
** Pro-government papers assert "winners and losers" alike should accept the result.
** South Africa's Mbeki faulted for "indulging" Mugabe with "quiet diplomacy."
** Commentators predict Zimbabwe's already harsh situation "is bound to get worse."
Vote 'hopelessly tilted'-- Dailies were gratified that Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections took place without "wanton violence" but most condemned the vote as a "sham" and asserted that it was "not surprising" that President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party won. Analysts cited "manipulated electoral lists," denial of food aid to supporters of the opposition MDC, and "wholesale intimidation and misuse of the state-controlled media" to denounce the election as "rigged in favor" of ZANU-PF. "To say Zimbabwe’s election results 'reflect the free will of the people' of Zimbabwe," said South Africa's balanced Business Day, "is to make the rather unfortunate, but obvious point that ZANU-PF was always going to win."
'Crying foul is wrong'-- Zimbabwe's government-owned Herald, though, praised the vote as "extraordinarily peaceful and...well-organized." The paper noted that teams from the Southern African Development Community and African Union had "closely observed" the process and said their judgment that the vote was fair "should be accepted by all." The KANU party-owned Kenya Times, labeling MDC leader Tsvangirai "a creature of the Western press," contended he and "his patrons in London" had "to invent" reasons to discredit the poll. A Zambian editorial agreed the elections were "nowhere near perfect" but urged the MDC to accept the results.
Africa too 'quiet' on Mugabe-- Skeptical observers were "extremely disappointed" that election monitors from neighboring countries judged the elections free and fair. Writers in particular criticized South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki for being affected by "sentimental tosh" and showing "indulgence" to Mugabe, declaring "this ill fits his role of being the spokesman for the 'new Africa.'" They attacked Pretoria's "quiet diplomacy," which Mbeki has pursued "to no avail." South Africa, said that country's Sunday Times, "has wittingly or unwittingly helped entrench a despotic neighbor." Thanks in part to Mbeki, observed a German commentator, "every African potentate will be able to patch his election result together by referring to the outcome of the elections in Zimbabwe."
Slipping 'deeper into the quagmire'-- Zimbabwe's independent Daily News worried that the country is "entering a very dangerous period of instability." Given the "demoralized opposition," editorialists saw little prospect of change, concluding that "nothing short of a miracle" will improve ordinary Zimbabweans' lives in the short term. Zimbabwe has been "reduced...to the brink of starvation" by an "economically illiterate" regime. "With each passing day," said Jamaica's centrist Daily Observer, Mugabe "appears more of a demented tyrant" while Zimbabwe "continues to collapse."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 36 reports from 17 countries March 30 - April 6, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
ZIMBABWE: "Dangerous Period After Election Result"
The independent Daily News commented (Internet version, 4/4): "Even if half the allegations made by the MDC...are true, Zimbabweans must know they are entering a very dangerous period of political instability. It's most unfortunate that both the South African observer mission, and the observer missions of the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) speedily endorsed the elections as free and fair.... There could be a logical explanation for all...[the] weird anomalies. But the overall effect must surely be that things were not what they seemed.... ZANU-PF did achieve its ambition and there probably will be a Senate soon, dominated by ZANU-PF stalwarts, long in the tooth, short on gray matter. There will be a prime minister, dancing to the strings of the master puppeteer, Mugabe himself. And when he retires in 2008, he will have no problem with anybody of substance asking him to dig up and explain old bones. Meanwhile, the cities which rejected ZANU-PF at the polls may be in another tough time from the government. Zimbabwe's international isolation will continue and the economy will continue to decline--no jobs, no drugs, no food, no foreign currency and no investment. This will be a very dangerous period indeed, perhaps lasting for a long, dreary, miserable five years."
"Stiff Challenges Ahead for ZANU-PF"
The independent Zimbabwe Standard observed (Internet version, 4/3): "ZANU-PF will be celebrating its 'win' in last Thursday's Parliamentary elections, but once the euphoria of its pyrrhic victory is over, real challenges await it. While the ruling party revels in its 'increased' majority in the House, it will need to reflect on the real task ahead, part of which is how Zimbabwe got to be where it is today, who the real architects of the mess the country finds itself in are, and more importantly how it proposes to go about addressing a looming food crisis, nervous investors, its relations with the international donor community, dwindling job opportunities, a collapsing health care system and a spiraling cost of living.... A major challenge for the ZANU-PF government as it savors its electoral victory will be how to re-engage [the people] and convince them that it now has the resolve to tackle the problems this country has suffered from during the past half a decade.... Explanations [about reported voters turned away and spoiled ballots] will determine whether or not Zimbabweans believe the government's explanation that it was not involved in electoral skulduggery. We remain skeptical until convincingly proven to the contrary."
"Accept Final Election Reports"
The government-owned Herald argued (Internet version, 4/3): "As ZANU-PF started celebrating its almost-certain two-thirds majority in Parliament yesterday, the badly bruised MDC was crying foul and trying to arrange meetings with the European Union, of all people. This is wrong. In every election there are winners and losers, and in a democracy the losers of today can easily become the winners of tomorrow if they figure out correctly the reasons for their loss and plan a more winning strategy. The 2005 election has been closely observed by Zimbabwe's neighbors, both by the formal SADC team and by many of our neighbors. Their final reports should be accepted by all--winners and losers--as the last word on whether the people of Zimbabwe were able to exercise their democratic rights."
"After The Polls, Which Way Zimbabwe?"
Bornwell Chakaodza wrote in the independent Zimbabwe Standard observed (Internet version, 4/3): "Once again the great divide between the rural and urban constituencies has reared its ugly head and unless President Mugabe and ZANU-PF are magnanimous in 'victory', Zimbabwe will continue its slide into certain oblivion. The situation is bound to get worse and more and more Zimbabweans will be forced to leave the country."
"SADC, AU Challenged On Rigging Charges"
The independent Daily News editorialized (Internet version, 4/1): "So, the reason for the surprisingly accommodating attitude of ZANU-PF towards the MDC's election campaign has been exposed as what many observers had predicted--the election was rigged. Morgan Tsvangirai's serious allegations of irregularities in a number of constituencies should be studied thoroughly and objectively by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union election observers.... President Robert Mugabe's response that the allegations are 'nonsense' should itself be treated as nonsense. Right from the beginning, neutral but hard-nosed electoral observers, unaffected by the sentimental tosh that seems to influence such people as President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, predicted that there would not be free and fair elections this time around. What must hurt many Zimbabweans is that Europeans, Americans, Australians, Canadians and a few African countries tend to doubt ZANU-PF's integrity, while SADC and the AU seem to believe unconditionally in that same integrity. Zimbabweans who have seen ZANU-PF's lack of morality and integrity at first hand are itching to have this party replaced because it has led them miserably as a government. It has caused such a terrible decline in their living standards that, if they cannot be given a fair chance to remove the party by legitimate means, they will either withdraw into a dangerous cocoon of lethargy and apathy, or seek other means to express their displeasure. This could be just as dangerous."
"Peaceful And Well-Organized Election"
The government-owned Herald commented (Internet version, 4/1): "The 2005 general election has been extraordinarily peaceful and exceptionally well-organized.... The whole of Zimbabwe, all political parties, the candidates and police, can take the credit for the almost total lack of violence and intimidation.... It is sad that so many voters decided not to make an effort to choose their new parliament. Both major parties will have to think hard about why large numbers were not excited about this election, and come up with solutions that will make more see just how important an election is."
SOUTH AFRICA: "Nothing To Celebrate"
The conservative Citizen commented (4/5): "Despite the endorsement by those too frightened to go against the wishes of Thabo Mbeki, this 'victory' is correctly seen as a sham by Western countries able to help pull Zimbabwe out of its economic morass.... Progress has been thwarted, Zim's misery deepens. There is nothing to celebrate."
"Nothing To Change"
Balanced financial-daily Business Day reflected (4/4): “To say Zimbabwe’s election results 'reflect the free will of the people' of Zimbabwe, as the South African government’s observer mission has done, is to make the rather unfortunate, but obvious point that ZANU-PF was always going to win this election.”
"More Questions Than Answers"
The liberal Cape Times concluded (4/4): “An impartial reading of the events in Zimbabwe over the past five years would surely suggest that he electoral playing field was hopelessly tilted against the opposition. It is evident that the Zimbabwean authorities have failed to abide by the Southern African Development Community’s Protocol on principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.”
"You Have Won; Now Step Down"
The moderate Pretoria News argued (4/4): “Regarding the observer missions (including South Africa’s) which monitored the elections, we are extremely disappointed that they failed to condemn an electoral process that was rigged in favor of the ruling party.... There may not have been overt violence or a flouting of the law as such in these elections, but that does not make them free and fair or reflecting the will of the people of Zimbabwe.”
"The Failure Of Quiet Diplomacy"
The liberal Sunday Times editorialized (4/3): “It might sound like a contradiction, but the reality of what has come to be called South Africa’s ‘quiet diplomacy’ does not seem to acknowledge that Zimbabwe is a country in disarray.... South Africa has, wittingly or unwittingly, helped entrench a despotic neighbor. Stereotypes about the continent as intractably chaotic will only abound as a result of the South African government’s failure to assume leadership by expressing its approval of how the Mugabe regime is conducting itself.”
BOTSWANA: "Zimbabweans Have Spoken"
Gaborone-based Mmegi concluded (Internet version, 4/4): "The majority of the Zimbabwean voters have spoken.... As was expected, Western powers, including Britain and the United States have criticized the vote. It has always been clear that Britain and her allies were not going to accept the outcome of the results in Zimbabwe if ZANU-PF won.... However different elections observers have given their verdict on the conduct of the elections. There are no adverse reports.... The elections...have even been given a clean bill of health as far as violence is concerned.... However, there were reports that the opposition was deprived coverage by the state media. This was seen as a deliberate effort by the Mugabe government to deny the MDC the opportunity to sell itself to the electorate. This seems to be a common problem in Africa (Botswana included) where ruling parties abrogate themselves the sole right to the use of state media. This is not right and it has to be condemned in the strongest words possible. Now that elections are over, it is up to the ZANU-PF government to improve the lives of Zimbabweans who have become economic refugees because of the appalling economic situation in the country. They have become a burden to neighboring countries. This must stop."
GHANA: "Land Of Misery And Fear"
Oliver Kinsey Smith commented in the independent Ghanaian Chronicle (3/31): "Zimbabwe looks set to slip deeper into the quagmire of economic misfortune; a country that once fed southern Africa with its food surplus has degenerated into a ruthless land of misery and fear, thanks to the ZANU-PF party. The world looks on aghast as an estimated 750,000 are in imminent danger of starvation. The only option left to the world is to employ 'forcible' means--yet would the ends justify these means?"
KENYA: "Tsvangirai's Defeat A Boost For All Oppressed Africans"
David Ochami in the KANU party-owned Kenya Times (Internet version, 4/3): "As expected, the West and the Zimbabwe opposition and their media have discredited the outcome of the elections in the southern African nation. The polls were rigged because Robert Mugabe, the 'aging despot' has won and the 'charismatic' Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, have lost. The MDC and its patrons inside and outside Zimbabwe did not know that Tsvangirai and his cohorts would lose. Scandalized by the fact that this year's election campaigns were free of violence and that the MDC was accorded state media coverage as well as funds to participate in the polls, these people had to invent 'reasons' to discredit the outcome beforehand and prepare for this loss. The MDC leader and his patrons in London were adventurous enough to claim that the elections in Zimbabwe 'will not be free and fair no matter the outcome.' But as usual he could not answer the question...would he consider himself legitimately elected on the account of an election he considers rigged?... [Tsvangirai]...is just as foolish as he looks and can only issue statements after dictations from Number 10 Downing Street.... Because he is a creature of the Western press and 'civil society' which placed him ahead of their agenda, [Tsvangirai] lacks the independence, even baring his limited education, to address the burning issues of land redistribution in Zimbabwe, scientific innovation and economic growth.... Tsvangirai's loss makes the need for completion of Kenya's aborted revolution more urgent."
"Zimbabwe: Will Sanity Win?"
The independent, left-of-center Nation observed (Internet version, 4/1): "Zimbabweans voted yesterday in parliamentary elections, with President Mugabe predicting his ruling ZANU-PF would extend its 25-year grip on power. Opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai also said he was confident of victory, although he claimed the poll was not free and fair. These elections are different from recent ones because the wanton violence against the opposition has been largely absent. But there have been allegations that food aid has been denied to opposition supporters. From a sample of just 10 per cent of the register, one human rights group, FreeZim, estimated that the voters' roll listed up to one million dead people, more than 300,000 duplicate names, and one million people who no longer live at their registered addresses. Yet, whether Dr. Mugabe or Mr. Tsvangirai wins, nothing short of a miracle can improve the ordinary Zimbabwean's life in the short term. Dr. Mugabe took a good case for land redistribution--from a small group of white settler farmers to landless blacks--but made a disaster of it by unleashing ruling party thugs to violently take over the farms. The result is that the country, which once had one of the world's most efficient agricultural economies, is today a basketcase with millions of people saved from starvation only by food aid. Today, 60 per cent of Zimbabweans are unemployed and inflation 'improved'...127 percent last month. Dr. Mugabe has helped perpetuate a stereotype of African leaders as incompetent power-hungry maniacs, who begin well, but go on to wreck their countries decades later when they are senile. If his party wins, Zimbabwe's misery will continue. If it loses, the MDC is not the kind of robust party that can be expected to turn things around quickly. The result will be an opposition which raises hopes with victory, but dashes them once in power. Africa should learn from the Zimbabwe case not to allow political parties and leaders to stay in power until they become hopeless."
NAMIBIA: "Death Of Democracy"
The privately owned, Afrikaans-language Republikein observed (4/4): "It is not possible to rejoice in the relatively little violence and intimidation during the Zimbabwean election without at the same time feeing sad about the death of democracy in Zimbabwe."
UGANDA: "Mugabe Central To The Problem"
Tajudeen Abdulraheem wrote in the state-owned New Vision (3/31): "It is impossible to think of a final peaceful settlement...with Mugabe still at the helm of affairs.... The septuagenarian ex-comrade is no longer part of the solution but central to the problem.... He has developed a siege psychosis, grandiose paranoia and neo-fascist mentality which make him see all opponents, whether within his party, the government or in the country, as traitors."
ZAMBIA: "Accept Zimbabwe’s Election Results"
The independent Post had this to say (Internet version, 4/4): "The conduct of Zimbabwe's last Thursday's parliamentary elections cannot be said to have been anywhere near perfect. There are still many flaws and a number of areas that need improvement. But whose conduct of elections can be said to be perfect or near perfect? No one. Even the United States' conduct of elections--as witnessed in the last two elections--is nowhere near perfect.... Ignoring the South African Observer Mission and the Electoral Commission Forum of SADC's observations, the European Union and United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have declared the parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe as neither free nor fair.... But Zimbabwe is neither a member of the EU nor a colony or province of the United States. It is a member of SADC and a neighbour of South Africa.... Clearly, there's need for MDC to accept the results of these elections and work within the SADC framework to improve on the many flaws detected.... Collaborating with imperialism to bring the Zimbabwean government of ZANU-PF to its knees won't do; it's a wrong strategy that has so far failed them and undermined them in the eyes of many African, and indeed Zimbabwean, patriots."
BRITAIN: "Life Under Mugabe"
The left-of-center Guardian had this to say (4/5): "The repercussions of this phony poll go far beyond Zimbabwe's 12 million people. Issues of governance and corruption lie at the heart of efforts to help Africa through the millennium development goals. The international community must ensure that Mr. Mugabe remains a pariah and hope that he is swiftly replaced by colleagues who will work for a better future."
"What Now of Blair's Africa Vision After Zimbabwe?"
Richard Dowden, director of the Royal African Society, commented in the center-left Independent (Internet version, 4/4): "Suddenly the upbeat 'let's celebrate Africa' mood and Blair's grand plans to save the continent have hit reality; African politics. In Zimbabwe, the overwhelming victory of Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in Friday's parliamentary elections is a stark reminder that Africa's politics have their own particular dynamics. For Zimbabwe it is the worst possible result. The next election there will be the presidential one in 2008 and between now and then the country will remain in limbo; its economy in ruins, its people wracked by HIV/AIDS and its government shunned by Western donors. But the collapse of Zimbabwe is a minor setback to the Afro-optimism and Blair's commitment to change Africa. The really serious blow is the reaction of the rest of the continent. The official South African observer mission declared the result 'the will of the people'...even while other observers were trying to check out allegations of massive fraud. The other African observer missions will almost certainly say that there were 'irregularities' but that the election was basically free and fair, a vast improvement on 2000. Africa does not support Western policy towards Zimbabwe. In fact many African politicians regard it as a 'tiff' between Zimbabwe and Britain caused by British concern for its own 'kith and kin' there; the white farmers.... Britain has been forced to learn that the only way it can influence Zimbabwe's future is through other African allies, particularly South Africa. As in the days of rebel Rhodesia, South Africa holds the key. But Blair and President Thabo Mbeki fell out over Zimbabwe at the Commonwealth Summit in 2003. Since then Mbeki has shown little sign of changing his mind and announced before the election that he was confident it would comply with regional standards. If Britain is going to go the diplomatic route it will be a long walk."
The conservative Times editorialized (4/4): “Robert Mugabe is a problem that many have wished would simply go away. But this weekend’s election result shows that the 81-year-old dictator is far from fading, with possibly his most fraudulent election victory yet.... In a country where around half the people now go hungry as a result of his policies, Mr. Mugabe has surely set his country on a path to eventual violence.... Another five years is too long to wait for the millions who are hungry and oppressed. Mr. Mugabe treats all opposition with contempt. Other African leaders must now take the lead.”
"Mugabe’s So-Called Victory Does Not Stand Scrutiny"
The center-left Independent commented (4/4): “Morgan Tsvangirai’s demoralized opposition appears in no mood to confront the security apparatus and take to the streets. So Zimbabwe is unlikely to see any repeat of the scenes in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. The outlook is, in short, fairly hopeless as Mugabe and his cronies strip their country bare. We must continue to protest against this regime and to deny its so-called elections any legitimacy.”
"Mugabe's Cynical Charade"
The conservative Scotsman of Edinburgh editorialized (Internet version, 4/1): "Zimbabwe went to the polls...in a sham election whose result is known before any vote is counted. Even if, despite the wholesale intimidation and misuse of the state-controlled media, some democratic miracle should occur, and the candidates of the ruling ZANU-PF party do not steal a majority, then 81-year-old President Robert Mugabe will not be out of a job. For under the carefully gerrymandered Zimbabwean constitution, 'Comrade Bob' can simply appoint another 30 MPs of his choice. The real question in this charade is why President Mugabe feels the need to go through these sham elections every few years. Of course, Mugabe hotly disputes the fact that elections in Zimbabwe are corrupt.... Mr. Mugabe has retained the outward form of elections because his rule, which has reduced the rich farming country of Zimbabwe to the brink of starvation, remains fragile. A considerable opposition exists, headed by Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change. Rather than risk civil war, the aging Mugabe continues to hide behind the fig-leaf of a flawed democracy. This, in turn, allows him to retain the public support of South Africa, on which what is left of Zimbabwe’s economy still depends. It is very likely that this is President Mugabe’s last stand. South Africa, which has blazed a trail for democratic reform, racial tolerance and economic progress, is now the key to rescuing Zimbabwe from chaos. South Africa has the economic clout and political influence to persuade the post-Mugabe regime to return to democratic norms. No one denies Zimbabwe the right to land reform: but South Africa is an example of how to do it peacefully, and without wrecking the farming industry. A stable, democratic Zimbabwe is in South Africa’s interests--politically and economically. A continuation of the Mugabe style of dictatorship is not. The true heroes in this sad affair are the democratic opposition in Zimbabwe, who, despite great provocation, have eschewed any resort to violence, which would only make things far worse. Their resolute commitment to the ballot box exposes Robert Mugabe for the demagogue he has become. Someday, they will have their reward. Zimbabwe will have its equivalent of the recent Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and see a return to genuine democracy."
FRANCE: "Mugabe’s Victory: No Surprise"
Caroline Dumay wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (4/4): “Mugabe’s victory is a surprise for no one. He comes from the country’s majority ethnic group and has an undeniable hold on rural areas.... Mugabe’s message to Blair, the EU and all those who have accused him of breaking democratic rules, is quite clear: he is the undisputed leader in his country.”
GERMANY: "The Reward Of Fear"
Michael Bitala commented in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (4/5): "President Mugabe could not have been dealt a greater victory. His party got a two-third majority, his most important internal party critics were taken out, and the formerly strong opposition party MDC was marginalized.... To crown it all, Mugabe was given an international blessing--one that is at least important to him: election observers from southern Africa concluded that the results reflected the will of the people. This conclusion is a bad joke. Who really votes for a government that managed to run down a prosperous country into a poor house within five years? The economy is ruined, the money has been devalued, there are barely any jobs, and more than half of the people are starving. And Zimbabweans are supposed to have voted for the dictator to thank him? No one is so stupid. The truth is that the election was massively manipulated.... The Movement for Democratic Change is so weak like never before. Given the upcoming debates over the leadership and whether it was sensible to run in the elections, the MDC does not pose any danger. Since there have been no major protests so far, the situation will remain peaceful.... Those who desire change must either hope for Mugabe's death--or must be patient."
Manfred Pantförder noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (4/5): "The bankrupt Mugabe regime has survived all the turmoil of the recent years. South Africa's Mbeki in particular still backs Mugabe although he turned into a racist. This must be politically tackled to change in Zimbabwe. Diplomatic efforts, which include southern Africa, should be intensified to intervene in crises. The sanctions Europeans and Americans imposed on Harare did not impress Mugabe, nor did Secretary Rice's description of Zimbabwe as an outpost of tyranny."
Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine editorialized (4/4): "The outcome of the parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe is anything but surprising.... The interesting thing about these elections is the desperate effort of election observers from southern Africa to give this farce of an election a kind of legitimacy. What we are missing now is for South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki to declare 'Comrade Bob's' election free and fair. Of course, Mbeki has domestic policy reasons to show indulgence towards Zimbabwe, but this ill fits his role of being the spokesman for the 'new Africa.' If Mbeki again backs Mugabe, he would forfeit not only his credibility. He would also nurture fears that Zimbabwe is only a foreplay of things that could happen in South Africa if the ANC faced a real black opposition movement. It may be possible that the 'new Africa' must be sought elsewhere than in the south of the continent."
"A Bankrupt Winner"
Michael Bitalla noted in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (4/4): "Mugabe got his victory and we could not expect anything else. Those who are now speculating on mass protests, as opposition leader Tsvangirai or Archbishop Ncube are calling for, will probably be bitterly disappointed. No one will risk his life in Zimbabwe. After five years of struggles, the opposition is too weak and at odds with each other. In addition, Mugabe's control of the military, the police and security forces is too strict. A change of government will happen only if Mugabe dies or the disintegration processes in the government continue. Even today, too many people are dissatisfied with the rigid course of the dictator. They, too, have realized that he is ruining the country. That is why an opposition that could be dangerous for the dictator can develop only in his own ranks. But there are hopeful signs. Mugabe has no more funds to satisfy his supporters. The state is bankrupt and expropriated companies were distributed among his protégés long ago. But if there is no more to get, support will crumble."
"Black Day For Africa"
Johannes Dieterich opined in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (4/4): "Robert Mugabe's landslide victory is a political disaster not only because Zimbabwe is now sliding down into an abyss even more...but it is also a black day for Africa: again people allowed others to play hell with the concept of democratic elections. Those who are responsible for this are election observers from the South African ANC government.... We must give the observers credit for the fact that they are neither mute nor blind. Their analysis of free and fair elections is based on their effort to keep troubles away from their president. With his 'quiet diplomacy,' Mbeki has tried for years to urge autocrat Mugabe to cooperate with the opposition, but thus far to no avail.... But in the future every African potentate will be able to patch his election result together by referring to the outcome of the elections in Zimbabwe. Thabo Mbeki, who likes to be celebrated as the mentor of 'African renaissance,' will thus turn into Africa's gravedigger."
ITALY: "Elections Without Incident, Blackmail And Fraud In The Shadows"
Centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera observed (4/1): “Zimbabwe voted yesterday. Those who were expecting violence were disappointed. We must wait for the results on Saturday to understand whether or not votes were fraudulent. However, threats and the intense political climate were evident throughout the electoral campaign.... The country, which was once rich, is now reduced to starvation. Mugabe is using food as blackmail: he helps only those who swear loyalty. He did not want international observers--a sign that in case he loses, he could overturn the results with a ruse: dictators never step down of their own accord.”
RUSSIA: "Free Choice A La Mugabe"
Nargiz Asadova said in business-oriented Kommersant (4/1): "Analysts have no doubt whatsoever that the Robert Mugabe-led ZANU-PF party will win a majority in parliament. After 25 years in power, Mr. Mugabe knows how to secure victory for his party."
SWEDEN: "Why Is Africa So Quiet On Mugabe?
Conservative Svenska Dagbladet observed (4/3): “The parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe last Thursday were not free.... One may regard them as a joke but it is only tragic. Just like developments in Zimbabwe. From relative economic prosperity to starvation, from relative political freedom to a country dominated by bosses.... South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki has chosen to keep quiet and recommend diplomacy...and this to such a degree that the South African observer group declared that the Zimbabwe elections were, on the whole, free and fair.... But there is more at stake than Zimbabwe. It is all about credibility...and the possibility for partnership on development in Africa.... If African leaders want to get support and assistance, they must stop shutting their eyes to characters like Mugabe.”
"Mugabe Calls This An Election"
Per Ahlin commented in independent, liberal Dagens Nyheter’s (4/2): “The overwhelming impression is depressing...a bankrupt, oppressed, and paralyzed society has exhibited sham democracy; a show that more clearly than in most other places demonstrates that just elections are not adequate for a country to be a democracy.... In the West the view on the Zimbabwe elections is unambiguous condemnation. The elections are not approved of and Mugabe is held at arms length. However, the chance to influence the situation has (so far) been slim.... But Mugabe is not turning to the West in his attempts to appear as the legitimate leader--he is doing this vis-a-vis the neighboring countries, and the true tragedy is that he may succeed.”
SAUDI ARABIA: "Zimbabwe Elections"
The pro-government, English-language Arab News held (Internet version, 4/1): "If anyone had been ruler of a country for a quarter of a century, during which the once prosperous economy had collapsed, inflation had become one of the world’s highest and the rural poor were on the edge of starvation, you might expect that national elections would spell the end of their rule. However Zimbabwe’s 81-year-old President Robert Mugabe is unlikely to be packing his bags.... His ZANU-PF party will once again have fixed the vote. Mugabe’s government, despite its consistent incompetence and corruption, insists that it is not to blame for the substantial economic misfortunes that have befallen the country in its 25 years of rule--and will not allow anyone to put the blame on it.... Unfortunately as the economically illiterate regime drove the economy into the ground [after independence], Mugabe needed someone else to blame. The most obvious candidates were the white farmers. Tragically the mayhem that ZANU-PF unleashed upon the farming community, the one remaining support of the country’s already ravaged finances, has proven catastrophic. However strong the moral case for taking back white-owned land, the timing and the destructive manner in which the seizures happened destroyed the jobs and prosperity of hundreds of thousands of black workers. Were Zimbabwe a truly democratic country, the election results due to be declared later today would probably see an end of Mugabe’s rule. There is, however, general anticipation that they will once again be rigged. Nevertheless, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has seen fit to take part in the vote and his decision deserves respect. The alternative to peaceful change via elections is civil strife which he has rightly deplored. Since the results are almost certain to reconfirm ZANU-PF in power, the question must be what will opponents of this bankrupt and dishonest regime do next. Many of Zimbabwe’s brightest and best, by some accounts an astonishing 3.4 million people, have already quit the country. Those that remain are more likely to be Mugabe supporters who may swing the vote legitimately in the old leader’s favor. But however honest the vote, nothing is going to change the economic mess that is Zimbabwe short of a complete reversal of the inept and corrupt policies that have driven the country onto the economic rocks."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
AUSTRALIA: "Election Makes A Mockery Of Democracy"
The national conservative Australian contended (4/6): “In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe stands triumphant in the ruins of a nation that he has reduced to beggary and starvation.... While it was a relatively peaceful poll, with no repeat of the widespread violence Mr. Mugabe's supporters used in the previous two elections, on the evidence of inflated election rolls and reported intimidation of voters, it was hardly a fair one. The outcome of this election is exactly what Mr. Mugabe intended. His power is further entrenched. He has the parliamentary majority to reduce the already feeble practical protection the constitution provides.... For as long as neighbor states, especially South Africa, turn a blind eye to Mr. Mugabe's tyranny, flight or submission seem the only safe options for ordinary people. Life in Zimbabwe has long been a misery for the vast majority. With this election it just got worse.”
JAMAICA: "Mugabe Needs To Get A Message"
The centrist Daily Observer maintained (3/30): "Frankly, with each passing day, Mr. Mugabe appears more of a demented tyrant wallowing in corruption while Zimbabwe, which many people, including Jamaicans, helped in the tough struggle against apartheid, continues to collapse. The world should not allow him to continue destroying the democracy that so many fought to achieve."
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