Friday, April 4, 2008

Some politicians are done #1

A bit ago, I said:

If there were real elections in Zimbabwe, my cynical side tells me
Mugabe and ZANU-PF would still win, since the average Zimbabwean
doesn't have much basis for comparison. Mugabe did indeed end Western
control of the country. He does have popular support. Forcing him not
to propagandize a couple months before an election wouldn't undo the
pervasive effects of his twenty-five years of propaganda. But the
opposition party, the MDC, would probably get quite a few seats - a lot
more than Mugabe would like. It would set itself up as a real
opposition party, waiting for the elderly Mugabe to kick the bucket.
Zimbabwe is not, and has never been, a real democracy. But I hold out
hope that sometimes soon, it may join the club. [Important section highlighted]

Why was I wrong? I was indeed wrong, since it seems that the MDC
opposition has won more seats than ZANU-PF. Mugabe is currently
looking for a way out. He may, it seems, remain in power but this
looks less likely as time goes on. I said there won't be real
democracy in Zimbabwe until Mugabe dies. What did I get wrong?

I didn't anticipate that people could actually see through Mugabe's
propaganda. The average person noticed that there was 200,000%
inflation and that all Mugabe did about it was blame white people and
imperialists. The average person noticed that the opposition, while
not likely to wave a magic wand and end the crisis, at least provided a
possible way out.

I don't doubt that Mugabe wanted to rig the elections if the opposition looked likely to win. What happened, it seems, is that people were so totally against him and his party that a vote-rigging became impossible. If he had done it, it would have been the most transparent move ever. Even South African President Thabo Mbeki might have broken off relations. The overwhelming support for the opposition was aided by the fact that Mugabe is a petty, not authoritarian dictator. Petty dictators are found all over Africa and Latin America. They cannot control all aspects of their population, but rely on rich supporters and the military to do it. They often arise when the leader of a 'freedom fighting' anti-imperialist group simply never leaves power. Authoritarian dictatorships, like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, North Korea, etc. have more power over their population. The leaders have religious or semi-religious origins and are often military.

An authoritarian would never have lost this election. Mugabe's own status, which made him less of a human rights violator (though still a bad one) caused his party to lose the election. I am amazed at what happened here. I don't count on the MDC to be some kind of savior-party, nor is their leader Morgan Tsvangirai a Nelson Mandela. What amazes me here is that a non-western country has made a true opening for democracy with no western democratic help. Zimbabwe may not capitalize on this chance and might slide into one-party rule again, but a window of opportunity has been bought. The country pulled itself up by its bootstraps. This is the way things should happen - a model of democratizing without western takeover and occupation. I truly think most countries around the world want some kind of democracy. They may not recognize all the rights we do, and may have different ideas about freedom and religion and the role of the state, but I think that most people who know about elections and voting prefer the idea.

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