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April 03, 2005

Zimbabwe Trying to Catch a Wave
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Following this weekend's developments (see earlier post) the Zimbabwean opposition is now calling for a re-vote.  They seem to have concluded, smartly, that democratization happens in waves.  The events in Iraq, Lebanon, Ukraine, and Kyrgyz are mutually reinforcing.  For Zimbabwe, catching this wave would mean mustering a chorus of international protest against this week's rigged election (see Human Rights Watch's report on concerns that piled up in the weeks before the vote and here for the latest on what's happened since).   

The U.S. has a role to play in this, and not much to lose.  We should back the call for a revote, and for an array of legal and political reforms that would be necessary to make a second ballot fair.  The matter is complicated by an endorsement of the polling by a group of Southern African vote monitors.  But their conclusions are undermined by the reports from dissenters within the observer mission and by the known pro-Mugabe orientation of the head of the mission a cabinet minister in the government of Mugabe-friendly South African President Thabo Mbeki (Mbeki essentially called the Zimbabwean elections free and fair weeks before they took place).  Mbeki was wrong on AIDS, and he's wrong on this.

If we miss this chance, Zimbabweans will be stuck looking out for the next wave, a wait Mugabe himself says may last until he turns 100 in 2024.  While Mugabe himself may survive until then - -  all the signs in terms of its economy, life expectancy, food supply and more - - suggest that his country won't.

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