Zimbabwe’s Underhanded Autocrat

How Mugabe Manipulated the Vote

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses an election rally of his ZANU-PF party in Marondera, about 43 miles east of Harare July 15, 2013. Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters

If Robert Mugabe has his way, the results of Zimbabwe’s July 31, 2013, presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections will have been determined before a single ballot is cast. The wily 89-year-old autocratic president, in power for 33 years, has put in place a system of security, legal, fiscal, and administrative measures aimed at again returning his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) to national office. The credibility of any election that yields such an outcome, however, will be suspect.

The immediate point of reference -- and the precedent to be avoided -- is Zimbabwe’s disputed June 27, 2008, presidential election, when the country’s powerful security apparatus and captive electoral commission secured Mugabe’s path back to the presidency by overturning a first round victory by Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The illegitimacy of that hollow victory was evident even to ZANU-PF’s allies

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