Zimbabwe election result fails to banish old Mugabe demons
Zimbabwe's election was meant to be a moment of national transformation: a textbook exercise in tolerance and democracy to banish the demons of Robert Mugabe's brutal misrule.
But a week after the violence-marred election, tensions are running high in Harare and a deal to bring the country back into the community of nations appears to be unravelling.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former intelligence chief who served Mugabe for decades before ousting him last year, entered what were probably the most credible elections in the country's history betting he could secure power with a victory transparent and peaceful enough to gain approval from the world.
The quid pro quo whispered in his ear by foreign, and particularly British, diplomats was an end to isolation, a return to the Commonwealth, and financial assistance to rebuild his country.
Instead, he won the narrowest victory, the world has been shocked by troops shooting civilians in the street, and the opposition has refused to recognise the result.
Nelson Chamisa, Mr Mnangagwa's 40-year-old populist challenger, has told supporters that the result was a fraud and has promised a "robust strategy" of political and legal pressures to force him to step down. The upshot is a febrile and uncertain atmosphere in which fear, suspicion, and rumour, are rife.
"This is obviously very bad for the country," said one western diplomat in Harare. "The door is not closed, but they have got to get a grip on alleged assaults by troops."
Officially, six people were killed and three remain in critical condition after troops were unleashed when an opposition protest in Harare descended into riot last Wednesday.
Mr Chamisa, who says he won about 200,000 more votes than the results showed, will file a legal challenge with the constitutional court this week to force a rerun of the election.
Mr Mnangagwa said he is "free to do so" because Zimbabwe is a democracy.
But the prospect of a second election would raise memories of 2008, when Mr Mugabe and Mr Mnangagwa unleashed a campaign of killings and intimidation against MDC supporters to force Morgan Tsvangari, the leader of the MDC at the time, to withdraw from a second-round run off.
The opposition say they are already facing harassment. Police raided the offices of Mr Chamisa's MDC Alliance, attempted to break up his first post-results press conference, and surrounded the house of a senior opposition MP's mother. Activists arrested in the raid on the party office were denied bail yesterday.
Uncertainty in Zimbabwe is fuelled by reports of division at the highest level of government.
Sources close to the military said that the troops were deployed not because police could not cope but because the government is uncertain of the force's loyalty.
The sources said that the police are perceived to be dominated by Mugabe loyalists and were sidelined in security roles after the November military coup.