Robert Mugabe, a former freedom fighter and Zimbabwe’s President, has ruled his country ever since its independence. But the West sees in Mugabe a brutal dictator; the EU has even banned him from entering its territory. And in Wednesday’s presidential election, the 89-year-old faces real pressure.
Metro spoke with Dr. Knox Chitiyo, a fellow at Chatham House in London and the former deputy director of the Centre for Defence Studies at the University of Zimbabwe.
Robert Mugabe has won every presidential election so far. Will he win again?
This time the outcome is far from certain. The elections have galvanized support for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. That’s very different from a year ago, when Tsvangirai was faced with numerous allegations relating to love affairs. Right now it doesn’t look like his domestic travails will have much impact. But support for Mugabe has galvanized, too.
If Mugabe loses, will he go or put up a fight?
Unlike the last election [which resulted in violence], there’s a lot more pressure on the candidates. If there’s a clear winner, there will be enormous pressure on the loser to concede. Of course, if it’s a close outcome and a runoff election, it will be a completely different matter. But South Arica and the African Union will put a lot of pressure on Mugabe to behave.
Zimbabwe’s economy is in tatters. Why do people still vote for Mugabe?
There has been an economic turnaround since the coalition government came into power in 2008. Zimbabwe is no longer a disaster zone. But people will vote for the candidate they think can create jobs and better transportation. This is not an ideological election.
What will happen to Mugabe if he loses his election? Will he retire abroad?
It won’t end his political career; he’ll still be regarded as an elder of Zimbabwean politics. Tsvangirai would still have to consult with him. On the other hand, if Tsvangirai loses the election, it will be the end of the road for him.