As Robert Mugabe was once again sworn in today for his seventh term as the leader of Zimbabwe, his rival – Moran Tsvangirai – continues to question the results, with numerous accusations of voter fraud. This is not the first time that Robert Mugabe and the ruling party have been accused of holding rigged elections; it has already happened before in recent history, during the country’s period of hyperinflation. Last month, Mr. Mugabe was reported to have won the election with 61 percent of the vote. Tsvangirai received 34 percent.
Since then, Tsvangirai has been alleging political corruption especially in large areas, saying that nearly one million individual voters were turned away from polling stations during the election. According to other complaints, the leaders in some villages were bribed with food and kitchen accessories if they would agree to vote for Magube’s party. It is also believed that there were voter intimidation tactics being used in some instances.
BBC News reports that the case has since been thrown out by Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court, which deemed the entire election and its process to be “free, fair and credible.”
The allegations have even prompted some international attention. Speaking before President Mugabe’s inauguration today, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed “grave concerns” over how the election was carried out, citing assessments by the South African Development Community (Sadc) and the African Union. “There is strong evidence,” Hague noted, “that these elections fell short of Sadc’s own guidelines and the Zimbabwean electoral law. As such, we are concerned about the potential implications for the region.”
Of course, it might be forgotten that something quite similar to this happened five years ago during the last Zimbabwean election. Even then, it was still Moran Tsvangirai who was running as the opposing candidate.
The March 2008 elections were monumental because of the majority party of Mugabe, the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), actually losing in pivotal senatorial and parliamentary races. Because the presidential election results were so close, a runoff was required to determine a clear majority winner. In response, violence was soon carried out directly against supporters of Tsvangirai, which caused the candidate to pull out of the race entirely. This month, Zanu-PF will be accused yet again of voting abuse, bribery, and general manipulation of the electoral process.
Five years ago, Tsvangirai himself expressed the idea that it was fruitless to run when Mugabe would essentially be the one to decide the outcome. The presidential position, then, was handed back to Robert Mugabe for an additional term. To make matters worse, it was only eleven months later — at the height of the country’s horrible period of hyperinflation — that Mugabe and his political party spent an exorbitant amount of money on his own birthday celebration. In the midst of food shortages, a health crisis, and out-of-control prices, the event was viewed by both citizens and world political leaders alike as a disgusting display of insensitivity.
Robert Mugabe first became the leader of Zimbabwe in 1980 when he was elected prime minister. The results of this election, though contested by his opposition as being rigged, have certainly made history by handing Robert Mugabe a sixth presidential term.
Written By: Chris Bacavis