Zimbabwe’s opposition party has reached agreement with Robert Mugabe’s organization to achieve some political reform in time for the next election. Mugabe has given up his ability to directly appoint one-quarter of the legislature, a key prop to maintaining a majority and controlling the body. However, the reforms will only improve the chances for the opposition if the election is clean:
Zimbabwe’s opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, yesterday struck a deal with Robert Mugabe to change the country’s electoral laws.
The rule change abolishes President Mugabe’s right to appoint 30 MPs, removing a major hurdle to the opposition winning an election.
But it also increases the number of constituencies from 120 to 210, which the ruling Zanu-PF party could easily gerrymander to return loyalist MPs.
But observers believe that the deal could mark a breakthrough and that talks chaired by South Africa could produce a new constitution in time for presidential and parliamentary elections next March. The process, however, remains subject to Mr Mugabe’s veto and there are no assurances of a free and fair ballot.
Even if the opposition wins the election, they’re not going to like what they get. The Telegraph reports now that Mugabe says inflation has slowed — to 6,592.8%. (It’s the 0.8% that really hurts, of course.) The country still is careening to complete collapse, as the International Crisis Group warns in its latest analysis. Winning the election and taking control of the government will put the MDC in charge just in time to preside over the catastrophe.
And that depends on Mugabe changing his stripes enough to refrain from stealing the election. Mugabe hasn’t been particular about restraining himself in order to allow democracy to flourish. He has made himself into a President-for-Life through intimidation, fraud, and corruption. If he allowed the kind of accountability that democracy imposes, he knows he’d spend the last few hours of his life up against the wall or preparing to mount the gallows. He can’t afford to let the MDC take charge, not unless he has a death wish.
The ICG recommends that the Southern African Development Community push to get Mugabe to resign his position. So far, they have proven themselves uninterested in assisting Zimbabwe’s people to free themselves from Mugabe’s disastrous rule. If Mugabe tries corrupting the next election, the question may be which of the SADC members will save Mugabe’s life by offering him asylum — which may be the best solution of all.