Mugabe: Hey, guys, how about a do-over?

Weeks after an election whose results the government refused to release, Zimbabwe’s state-run press offered a compromise. Instead of actually releasing the real vote counts and treating it like a real election, dictator Robert Mugabe would offer to partner with Morgan Tsvangirai in a “national unity” government until another fresh election could be held. For some reason, the opposition MDC has not shown much enthusiasm for the promise of a future election in exchange for ignoring the last one:

Zimbabwe’s state-run press is floating the possibility that Robert Mugabe will annul last month’s presidential election and call for a national unity government with himself as president while a new constitution is negotiated and a fresh ballot held.

The proposal, in an opinion piece in the Herald, is not a formal Zanu-PF plan. But the newspaper is often used by the ruling party to lay the ground for policy changes. The proposal is viewed by the opposition as another attempt by Mugabe to overturn the election results. …

With the results of the ballot still unannounced 25 days after it was held, and a partial recount of parliamentary and presidential votes taking days, it is increasingly apparent that the Zimbabwean government is undecided on the way forward.

Zanu-PF has touted the idea of a presidential run-off with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change’s candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai. But despite the ruling party’s campaign of violence against opposition voters, Mugabe can be far from certain of winning, particularly with growing regional scrutiny. His government appears to be stalling while it finds a credible way to hold on to power.

Mugabe still fails to realize that he has zero credibility as a democrat. His only open method of hanging onto power is brute force, and he’s already using that in two ways. His security forces have committed violence in districts that supported the MDC as a way of softening them up in case a run-off election gets called as a compromise. Mugabe’s forces also control the election commission and the judiciary, and they have transparently corrupted the election while they figure out what they want the numbers to be.

Under those circumstances, a “power-sharing” government will most likely mean Mugabe holds the strings while Tsvangirai acts as a puppet to give him a fig leaf of credibility. If Mugabe wanted to honor an election, he has the opportunity now by inviting the UN to review the raw vote totals and the MDC’s photographs of the local precinct results that they took as a safeguard against Mugabe’s election-rigging. If he won’t do that, then why would the MDC or anyone else trust that he will honor the results of the next election?

Unfortunately, given the weak-kneed response of the SADC and the UN during this crisis, both will probably seize on this offer as a means to avoid violence and end the standoff. That will only kick the can down the road until Mugabe, his election commission, his judiciary, and especially his security forces steal the next election.