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Zimbabwe’s Dying Dictatorship

The Country Prepares for Life After Mugabe

Robert and Grace Mugabe attend a rally in support of ZANU-PF rule in Harare, May 2016. Philimon Bulawayo / Reuters

In 2016, as President Robert Mugabe celebrates his 92nd birthday and 36th year in power, Zimbabwe stands on the brink of another meltdown. The country’s current economic insecurity and political conflict are reminiscent of 2000–08, when hyperinflation and electoral violence were rife. This time, however, the stakes are even higher as a floundering authoritarian regime faces a leadership succession with little clear guidance on how to navigate the transition.

From its independence in 1980 to 2009, Zimbabwe was dominated by Mugabe’s party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). A strong showing by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the 2008 general election led to the country’s first-ever coalition government in 2009. But that government fell with the controversial 2013 elections, which were decided in favor of the ZANU-PF by implausibly large margins. Now unrivaled once more, the ruling party has failed to offer anything in the way of economic or political

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