last march, there was an election in zimbabwe. exit polls suggested that the opposition, led by morgan tsvangirai, received over 50% of the votes. the government of robert mugabe stalled for a while. first they didn't comment, then they claimed that tsvangirai had received more votes than mugabe, but less than 50%, so there had to be a runoff. however, they took over a month to release the "official" results. during that time the ballots were under the exclusive control of mugabe's government. it wasn't all that surprising that when the official tally was announced in early may, tsvangirai ended up with only 48% of the vote so the government could schedule a run-off.
as expected, the run-off happened last week and was a total sham. but what really surprised me was reading this line in this morning's new york times:
Mr. Tsvangirai won 48 percent of the vote to Mr. Mugabe’s 43 percent in the first round of the presidential election on March 29.two months ago, when the 48% number was first announced, newspapers would report the number only in the larger context of the dispute over those numbers. indeed when the nytimes first reported about the official numbers, it noted that those figures were contested and that the opposition claimed an outright victory. now, in this follow-up story months later, the old controversy has fallen away. previous doubts aside, the 48% figure is now reported as fact.
mugabe got a lot of heat for the suspicious late announcement of the march election results. he's getting a lot of heat now about the run-off, where he banned tsvangirai from engaging in any electioneering activities, caused him to flee the country during the campaign period, had government thugs maim and kill opposition supporters and their families, and generally made things so bad that tsvangirai dropped out just days before the run-off election. but the lesson of the first round is that mugabe just has to wait it out. today's article notes the criticism's that mugabe's victory last week "fell short" and "did not represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe." but a few months from now, we'll probably just read an article saying that mugabe won a democratic election with 85% of the vote.