In the year 2000 one of the most controversial elections in United States history took place, as Governor George W. Bush faced former vice president Al Gore for the presidency. The race was so close that it forced a recount, which reared contested results. Though Gore won the popular vote, Bush walked away with the presidency and many people maintain that Bush stole the election by manipulating documents and disenfranchising thousands of American citizens. Could the same thing be taking place in Zimbabwe? Here’s a little background..
Robert Mugabe has been running things in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, first as a head of government, later as a prime minister and finally as the President of Zimbabwe. However, Mugabe’s 3 decade reign almost came to an end when rival Morgan Tsvangirai gave him a run for his money in this year’s presidential election on March 29, 2008. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission found that Tsvangirai won 47.9% of the vote and Mugabe won 43.2% of the vote, forcing a runoff election because neither candidate received the necessary 50%. The presidential runoff was held this past Friday on June 27. The runoff results reveal that Mugabe won a landslide victory by an almost 9-to-1 margin, with voter turnout over 40%.
Here’s the controversy: Tsvangirai’s people called the original 47.9% – 43.2% results “a sham” and claimed that Tsvangirai actually won the necessary amount of votes to claim the presidency with 50.3%. Eventually, Tsvangirai begrudgingly agreed to take part of the runoff election. However one week before the runoff on June 22, Tsvangirai announced that he was withdrawing from the race because of intimidation and violence from Mugabe’s regime. He described the runoff as a “violent sham” and claimed that his supporters risked being killed if they voted for him. As a result, the second round continued with Mugabe as the only actively participating candidate and he was sworn in on Sunday, June 29th 2008 as the president of Zimbabwe. The international community is outraged, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anything (deja vou?).
President George W. Bush, who has been accused of the same manipulative tactics as Mugabe, issued the following statement regarding the Zimbabwean election:
I am instructing the secretaries of State and Treasury to develop sanctions against this illegitimate government of Zimbabwe and those who support it… We will press for strong action by the United Nations, including an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and travel ban on regime officials.
President Robert Mugabe responded:
Sanctions or no sanctions, we will not be told what to do by anybody. Britain and the U.S. are like bullies and rapists.
What are your thoughts? George Bush got away with it – should we hold Mugabe to the same standards? Are the two situations even comparable?