Mugabe rounding up poll workers

Robert Mugabe apparently can’t spin the poll data enough to convince anyone that he qualified for a run-off against the apparent winner of the presidential election, MDC challenger Morgan Tsvangirai. The Zimbabwean dictator has settled on another explanation instead. His security forces have begun arresting poll workers for undercounting the votes Mugabe intended to overcount:

Zimbabwean police have arrested at least five officials for allegedly under-counting votes cast for President Robert Mugabe in last month’s election.

Police said the election officials have been charged with fraud and criminal abuse of duty, accused of taking nearly 5,000 votes away from Mr Mugabe. …

Government ministers have said the arrested election officials were paid to falsify the election results.

They say the results posted outside polling stations showed more votes for Mr Mugabe than the forms forwarded to Harare for counting.

The poll workers make easy targets in this tug-of-war. MDC officials took pictures of every local poll result, so if the tallies received by the Zimbabwe Election Commission were suspect, they could simply check them against the pictures instead. They’re not interested in a correct count, but in manipulating allegations to delegitimize the result of the popular vote. If they have to arrest a few poll workers, then they have no problem with that, especially since it will reduce the incentive for participation in succeeding elections.

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF has now demanded a recount. That seems odd, since the election commission hasn’t released results yet. How can they know they need a recount if the votes have not yet been counted fully the first time? They’re stalling for time — time enough to figure out how to steal an election they obviously lost too badly to spin.

Ten days have passed since the election, and still the government has yet to announce any results. The MDC has taken the issue to court, which the Mugabe government’s election commission protested as outside its jurisdiction. In an ominous ruling for the ruling clique, the high court disagreed with Mugabe and heard arguments on the case, and could rule on it as early as today. A negative outcome could force Mugabe to use violence to maintain power, and could touch off a civil war.