Appearance of Democracy

With all the accusations of electoral violations – direct and indirect – in the recent Russian elections, past American elections (2000 and some in 2004) and the presently growing more and more tense elections in Zimbabwe, one wonders why those who clearly do not like the idea of giving up power even try to hold elections.  Mugabe was in power for 28 years, why hold elections and try to rig them? I mean why is the appearance of democracy, even though everyone knows it’s just an appearance, so important? If Putin declared that he wanted to stay for the third term (or indefinitely), I am sure there would be some protests, but with the repressive resources of the police and the army, any of those could have been easily put down.  There would be international problems as the Western democratic governments would not like it, but so what? It’s not 1917, and the West supports many despotic governments? Why play the game of democracy?

Take then Zimbabwe where 48 hours after the end of the elections the results are still not announced – does anyone have any doubt that Mugabe is trying to keep power despite very likely losing the popular vote? With the electoral commission full of his supporters, with army and police at his disposal, why should he not just announce that he listened to the people, thought their view was interesting but he’ll stay in power? Clearly these issues are sorted out in the mature democracies like the US where there are “checks and balances,” but how can one really hope that “new democracies” will really follow these rules?  Why would anyone give up power voluntarily? Mugabe is 84 – can’t he just retire and let others rule?

It’s still not clear who “won the election” in the Zimbabwe:

New York Times – HARARE, Zimbabwe — The main opposition party pressed its claim Monday that it had won a landslide election victory to unseat Zimbabwe President Robert G. Mugabe, but the government said nothing about the presidential vote 48 hours after ballots had been cast. The only official announcement was that both sides were tied in early parliamentary results.

At a news conference Monday, officials from opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, claimed to have seen the results from more than half of the constituencies and that according to their calculations the opposition presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, had won 60 percent of the presidential vote to beat Mr. Mugabe, who has been president for 28 years. Read the rest.

BBC – Zimbabwe is standing on a “precipice” as official results from Saturday’s general election start to trickle in, the opposition has said.

Leading Movement for Democratic Change official Tendai Biti says party leader Morgan Tsvangirai has won 60% of the vote, against 30% for Robert Mugabe. Official results show both sides have 19 parliamentary seats so far. Mr Biti says the results are being rigged.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has lost his seat, east of Harare. Public Affairs Minister Chen Chimutengwende has also lost his seat. Local results have been posted outside most polling stations since Sunday morning. Mr Biti says the MDC has won 96 of the 128 parliamentary seats, where it has calculated results. There are 210 constituencies. Read the rest.

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