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An Electoral Farce


The political charade in Zimbabwe is now complete. President Robert Mugabe has followed his fraudulent election with a hasty and bombastic inauguration, and despite the blood on his hands he stands again before the world self-assured and unashamed. How will the world respond?

Mr. Mugabe’s victory was never in doubt, after challenger Morgan Tsvangirai dropped out of the race because ruling party supporters were beating and killing his followers. To create the illusion of legitimacy, voters were herded to the polls and forced to cast ballots under the watchful eye of police or militia units. Many Zimbabweans said they feared being beaten if they couldn’t show a finger dipped in indelible ink, official proof of voting, so they went along with the charade. But others reportedly resisted, and turnout was low in many rural areas that had supported Mr. Tsvangerai during first round voting on March 29.

As news reports and photos emerged from Zimbabwe documenting the violence wreaked on opposition party activists, many in the international community reacted with horror and sadness. Mr. Mugabe rejected the criticism, saying it was orchestrated in the West to return his country to colonial status. Yet some of his most telling critics are fellow leaders from Kenya, Botswana and Zambia who have had a front row seat on the damage he has done his country.

Mr. Mugabe remains in office, and world leaders must decide what to do next. The United Nations and the African Union are discussing the situation, and as they determine a suitable response they should not legitimize his actions by dealing with him as if the June 27 voting was a free and fair election.

The United States stands ready to work with those organizations to resolve the crisis in a manner respectful of voters’ wishes as expressed in the March balloting. Meanwhile, it will continue to support the Zimbabwean people with its considerable commitment of food aid and medical assistance.

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