Zimbabwe is in more or less the same place it was after its 2008 elections: President Robert Mugabe claims he has won and the leader of the opposition, which probably won, says Wednesday's elections were "a huge farce."
Zimbabwe, the former white-minority-ruled Rhodesia, has been presided over since 1980 by Robert G. Mugabe, now 89 and frail. On Wednesday, in elections for the presidency and parliament, Mr. Mugabe stood again for another five-year term.
Although Zimbabwe is currently enjoying slight improvement in the state of its economy, based in part on the replacement of its own hyper-inflated currency in 2009 by the U.S. dollar, in general Mr. Mugabe has managed to reduce a healthy economy based on agriculture, mining and light industry to a situation of extreme poverty for much of the population. Unemployment among its 13 million people is estimated at 85 percent.
Zimbabwe's last elections, in 2008, resulted in the Movement for Democratic Change party of his principal opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, 61, winning, Mr. Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party claiming it won, and Zimbabwe's neighbors eventually having to intervene to put together an uneasy coalition government that included both Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai. That was after Mr. Mugabe's security forces and other thugs had killed hundreds of oppositionists. The ZANU-PF/MDC coalition has now ruled the country for the past five years, rather unsuccessfully.
This time, based on Mr. Mugabe's age and health, and the still pathetic state of the economy, the MDC was expected to win. Even though Mr. Mugabe stated that if he lost he would step down, it was also expected that he would not accept defeat.
The elections themselves were a mixed bag. Many Zimbabweans voted, but the voter rolls were badly flawed and an estimated 1 million voters were unable to vote. No Western organizations were allowed to send observers.African Union and Southern Africa Development Community representatives seem to have seen the elections as reasonably well conducted.
Nonetheless, Zimbabwe now seems to be in the same dilemma as it was after the previous elections. It will be up to someone, not the United States, probably the regional Southern African states and the African Union, to sort out the mess. In the meantime, it is the ordinary Zimbabweans who will suffer. When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets crushed.