Independent observers in Zimbabwe say that fewer than thirty percent of those eligible voted in elections for the new senate. This was a record low turnout and confirms the fact that many Zimbabweans regard the new senate as, at best, an irrelevance, and more likely as a wasteful extravagance that the country can ill afford.
Morgan Tsvangirai, President of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, had called for his followers to boycott “this meaningless election." Under the circumstances, it is no surprise that the ruling ZANU-PF party has won twenty-five of thirty-one seats that were contested.
The senate was created in August by the passage of a controversial constitutional amendment that gives the senate little real power and mandates that the body will go out of existence in 2010. Critics say that President Mugabe created the Senate as a source of jobs for ZANU-PF cronies.
Whether or not that is true, the elections will do little or nothing to address Zimbabwe’s enormous problems. More than seventy percent of Zimbabweans cannot find employment in the ever-contracting economy. Inflation exceeds three-hundred percent. More than four million people are at risk of hunger. Government mismanagement has led to severe shortages of fuel and foreign exchange. The new senate may provide jobs for politicians, but it will not put food on tables or bring wages into alignment with inflation.
The U.S. has called on the government to restore the rule of law and work to improve conditions for the people of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe needs sensible economic policies, accountable government, and a real dialogue between the government and all segments of society in order to find solutions to the crises that are wrecking the country.
Time is running out. The current planting season has gotten off to a horrible start, with shortages of fertilizer and other essential inputs. Economic mismanagement has rocked every productive sector, leaving the entire population with scarcer resources to buy food even if it is available. Food shortages and hunger will be even worse next year if quick action isn’t taken. President George W. Bush has commented on the situation:
"We are concerned about a leadership that does not adhere to democratic principles, and obviously concerned about a country that was able to, for example, feed herself, now has to import food as an example of the consequences of not adhering to democratic principles."
"The world needs to speak with a common voice," says Mr. Bush, "in insisting that the principles of democracy are adhered to by the ruling party in Zimbabwe."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.