Mugabe's dilemma--fraud or military coup?


A crisis meeting of Robert Mugabe's security cabinet decided to block the opposition from taking power after what appears to have been a comprehensive victory in Zimbabwe's elections but was divided between using a military takeover to annul the vote and falsifying the results.

Diplomatic and Zimbabwean sources who heard first-hand accounts of the Joint Operations Command meeting of senior military and intelligence officers and top party officials on Sunday night said Mugabe favoured immediately declaring himself president again but was persuaded to use the country's electoral commission to keep the opposition from power.

The commission began releasing a trickle of results yesterday, more than 36 hours after the polls closed, but the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said it believed the count was being manipulated.

Nonetheless, the first results, for 52 seats in the lower house of parliament, cost Mugabe one of his closest allies with the defeat of the justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, whom the MDC has accused of abusing the law to persecute the ruling Zanu-PF party's opponents. Other cabinet ministers are also believed to have lost their seats.

However, the few parliamentary results offered no guide to the outcome of the presidential race. Independent monitors collating the count from polling booth returns say the MDC presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, won about 55% of the vote and Mugabe 38%. The MDC also gained control of both houses of parliament, according to the monitors.

The MDC said the slow pace of releasing vote tallies - likely to take days at the present rate - was further reason to suspect they were being tampered with.

Sources with knowledge of the JOC meeting said the Zanu-PF leadership was "in shock" after it was informed of the scale of the victory of the MDC's presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai.


If the government does attempt to fix the result it will not go unchallenged. The election commission will have to substantially alter a large number of polling booth returns in order to overturn Tsvangirai's significant lead. But the MDC has photographed results declarations pinned to the doors of more than 8,000 polling stations. If the numbers announced by the election commission are different, the party says it will have indisputable evidence of fraud.


Mugabe is a shameless despot so he is unlikely to easily give in to the fact of his defeat. Nor or his neighboring countries likely to challenge his fraudulent attempts to hold onto the power he has used to ruin the country. The multilateralist at the UN are also unlikely to move against him either. It will take someone with courage and integrity in his current government and military structure to tell him to go and those people have generally been rooted out.

The Independent reports that senior members of the opposition have gone into hiding as "the ruling party and the security apparatus scrambled for any alternative to conceding defeat." The armed forces and police had said before the election that they would not recognize an opposition victory.


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