Democracy in dire peril

Events in Zimbabwe could be taking a dangerous turn. The longer the delay in releasing the presidential election results, the greater the threat to democracy in the country.

If independent projections and the results of the parliamentary elections are anything to go by, then President Robert Mugabe’s 28-year hold on power is over.

His chief rival Morgan Tsvangirai claims to have won just over 50 per cent of the presidential vote, and thus claims outright victory.

President Mugabe’s party concedes the opposition candidate got the most votes, but says not by the majority required to avoid a run-off. It thus says it is ready for a run-off, but at the same time demands vote recounts in some constituencies.

More ominously, government security agents have begun arresting officials of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. At the same time, the self-proclaimed war veterans have been re-activated and have resumed evicting white farmers.

The opposition is warning that President Mugabe is planning to wage war on his own people, fears which cannot be far-fetched looked at against the recent history of that country.

It remains inexplicable that the Electoral Commission has been unable or unwilling to release the election results. The uncertainty this has caused cannot be good for the country.

Democracy in Zimbabwe cannot be allowed to abort. If that happens so shortly after the trauma that Kenya has undergone over its own disputed elections, a very worrying message will have been sent about the fate of democracy in the whole of Africa.

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