Robert Mugabe held the sham run-off election today despite the withdrawal of his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, and the condemnation of the international community.  His electoral victory was assured when Tsvangirai refused this week to contest the election after an orgy of violence against his supporters and MDC leaders by the army and Mugabe’s militias.  Zimbabwe appears ready to hand him a moral spanking, though, as turnout has been embarrassingly low:

Zimbabwe’s one-candidate election drew a low early turnout on Friday after President Robert Mugabe went ahead with the vote despite widespread international condemnation. …

Voting began shortly after 1 a.m. EDT and turnout was thin at many polling stations in the capital Harare, unlike parliamentary and presidential elections in March when people queued from the early hours. Polling was due to end at 1 p.m. EDT.

“There is no doubt turnout will be very low,” said Marwick Khumalo, head of monitors from the Pan African Parliament.

The police have begun pressuring people to vote in order to bolster Mugabe’s standing.  In an ironic twist, the dye on the fingers of those who have voted allows authorities to find refuseniks and intimidate them into the polling booths, a reverse of the situation in Iraq in 2004, when millions of Iraqis cast votes and had their fingers dyed in defiance of those who attempted to intimidate them into silence.  And in a demonstration of Mugabe’s destruction of the Zimbabwean economy, far more people queued to buy bread than to vote.

Years ago, I read about an African tradition of the “empty chief”.  When a village decides that a chief no longer should lead and the chief refuses to accept that decision, the people simply depart the village, leaving the chief in charge of himself and humiliated before the world.   The people of Zimbabwe are trying to give us the modern equivalent of this tradition.

Mugabe’s legitimacy has entirely dissipated.  He now holds power through naked terrorism instead of the consent of the governed.  The people of Zimbabwe are desperately trying to signal this to the rest of the world by refusing to participate in his latest attempt to cover his dictatorship in a sheen of democracy.  When will the world act in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe?

Tags: terrorism