The Election of Not
I was privileged to team up with my friend Bree Zuckerman, far and away the sharpest Zim observer I know, on an essay examining Zimbabwe’s recent nationwide elections, for Warscapes.
Zimbabwe’s nationwide elections passed without bloodshed last month, but they were not free from controversy. On July 29, citizens went to the polls to elect a president and parliamentary representatives in the first electoral contest since 2008, and the first since Zimbabwe introduced a new constitution earlier this year. Tensions were running high. The candidates for the nation’s highest office were the same as they were in 2008, when Morgan Tsvangirai, running on the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ticket, squared off against the incumbent, Robert Mugabe of the ruling ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Political Front).
Five years ago, Tsvangarai narrowly edged out Mugabe in a three-way race for the presidency. Having failed to win an outright majority with 48 percent to Mugabe’s forty-three, however, Tsvangarai and the MDC were forced into a second round runoff. Before voters returned to the polls, the country witnessed violence and intimidation directed at opposition supporters. Hundreds of Zimbabweans were victimized by state-sponsored human rights abuses and threats against their lives. Hundreds more were rounded up by security forces and thrown into detention. Tsvangarai eventually pulled out of the race in the name of his constituents’ safety, and was ultimately named prime minister in a power sharing agreement brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki.