Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Zimbabwe's Stolen Election

Today's editorial in The New York Times.

"Zimbabwe’s presidential runoff election is still scheduled for Friday. But President Robert Mugabe has already stolen the vote.

For months, Mr. Mugabe’s henchmen have brutalized opposition politicians and voters who dared to imagine an end to the dictatorship. On Sunday, Morgan Tsvangirai — the opposition leader and winner of the first round — withdrew from the runoff. That night, he also took refuge in the Dutch Embassy in Zimbabwe’s capital while police raided his party headquarters.

This cannot continue. The United States, Zimbabwe’s African neighbors and the rest of the international community must immediately press for a postponement of the balloting.

And since Mr. Mugabe appears to have lost all sense — he has now declared that only God, not the voters, can remove him from office — they must pressure the generals who enable his reign of terror to abandon Mr. Mugabe.

Since the first balloting in March, at least 85 people have been killed, thousands beaten — some with iron bars — and thousands driven from their homes. Mr. Tsvangirai was detained five times and his party’s chief strategist is being held on specious treason charges.

Western and African leaders have done little but wring their hands. Finally, late Monday, the United Nations Security Council issued its first condemnation of the violence sweeping Zimbabwe, regretting that the “campaign of violence and the restrictions on the political opposition have made it impossible for a free and fair election to take place on 27 June.”

It was unclear if the council retained an important acknowledgment that was in an early draft: “Until there is a clearly free and fair second round of the presidential election, the only legitimate basis for a government of Zimbabwe is the outcome of the 29 March 2008 election” — which Mr. Tsvangirai won.

We fear it will take more than words to save Zimbabwe. The international community must back that up with serious punishments for Mr. Mugabe’s generals and cronies. Mr. Mugabe bought their loyalty with land and other government largess. Only very personal punishments — freezing their foreign bank accounts and denying visas — will make them recalculate their self-interest.

We are also waiting for South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki, to act. Instead of defending Zimbabwe’s people and their right to democratic change, he has shamefully chosen to protect Mr. Mugabe.

The United States, Europe and African governments must all make clear that if the runoff election is not delayed — so that Mr. Tsvangirai can campaign without the threat of violence — they will no longer recognize Mr. Mugabe or his government and will use all their powers to punish and isolate them."