Tina K. Russell

June 24, 2008

The least bad option

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:25 pm

Mugabe Rival Quits Zimbabwe Runoff, Citing Attacks – NYTimes.com
The leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition party withdrew Sunday from a presidential runoff, just five days before it was to be held, saying he could neither participate “in this violent, illegitimate sham of an election process,” nor ask his voters to risk their lives in the face of threats from forces backing President Robert Mugabe.

The opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, the standard-bearer of the Movement for Democratic Change, said at a news conference in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, that his party was facing a war rather than an election, “and we will not be part of that war.”

A governing party militia blocked his supporters from attending a major rally in Harare on Sunday, the head of an election observer team said. The opposition said rowdy youths, armed with iron bars and sticks, beat up people who had come to cheer for Mr. Tsvangirai.

It was the latest incident in a tumultuous campaign season in which Mr. Tsvangirai has been repeatedly detained, his party’s chief strategist jailed on treason charges that many people consider bogus, and rampant state-sponsored violence has left at least 85 opposition supporters dead and thousands injured, according to tallies by doctors treating the victims.

I’m kind of disappointed that Tsvangirai dropped out, because I held out a remote fantasy–kept aloft by my incessant clapping–that he would stay in and win Friday’s election, even though international monitors have been ejected, his supporters are being beaten up, imprisoned, and killed, he isn’t being permitted to run a campaign, and the incumbent has said that he would sooner go to war than transfer power.

Had Tsvangirai stayed in, we, the international community, would be in an awkward position. Had he won, we’d have to say, “Get out, Mugabe! Listen to the voice of your people!” But, had Tsvangirai lost, we would–rightly–have to decry the sham of it all, the beatings, the persecutions, the crippling, anti-democratic rule of Robert Mugabe. Basically, there were no good options, and I think Tsvangirai may have chosen the least bad one.

That said, I wish Thabo “There Is No Crisis” Mbeki, president of South Africa (not nearly the man his predecessor was; you might say he’s a “half-Nelson”), had engaged Mugabe more forcefully. We don’t know if it would have worked or not, but South Africa had more power and credibility in the region than any country on Earth, and Mbeki chose not to use it. That’s a shame.

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