By Stephen Gowans
It’s not the outcome of the upcoming March 29 elections that is foreordained, but the opposition’s, civil society’s, and Western media’s judgment of the election’s fairness that has been predetermined.
To see this, it’s instructive to note how the New York Times treated Mugabe’s chances of winning the election, before falling into line with the main opposition MDC party’s self-serving “Mugabe can’t win without rigging the vote” rhetoric.
On February 26, reporter Barry Bearak predicted Mugabe would “coast to victory” because the opposition had “failed to unite behind one presidential candidate.” The entry of Simba Makoni into the race, a former senior member of the ruling Zanu-PF party, would make the contest tighter, Bearak predicted, but acknowledged that “Mugabe…may still win handily.”
It was clear that Bearak didn’t think Mugabe would win because he had rigged the vote, but because the opposition was weak and fractured.
Three weeks ago, The Guardian (March 3, 2008) echoed Bearak’s assessment, declaring Zimbabwe’s opposition to be “weak and badly divided” and noted that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s “credibility has been worn away by poor leadership.”
Only recently have both newspapers begun to treat Mugabe as an unpopular leader who has to resort to vote rigging to stay in power.
The same pattern characterized Western media assessments of the last presidential elections in Belarus. Belarus, too, is on Washington’s list of governments targeted for regime change.
Months before the vote, Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko’s popularity was openly acknowledged and his victory in the election confidently predicted.
However, in the final week leading up to the election, press reports suddenly reversed course, emphasizing the vote rigging allegations of the opposition. (See http://gowans.blogspot.com/2006_03_01_archive.html )
Significantly, Belarus’s opposition shares the same sources of funding, assistance and backing as Zimbabwe’s, and operates along the same lines and with the same goals.
The March 26 New York Times cited two leaders of US- and British-government funded NGOs, who averred confidently that the election would not be free and fair and that “the tabulated results are in the box and [Mugabe] has won.”
The newspaper did not acknowledge the NGO leaders’ connections to US- and British-government sources of funding – a significant omission, considering both governments have an interest in discrediting the Zimbabwean government.
At the same time, the newspaper’s reporters complained bitterly that Mugabe is buying votes by bestowing “tractors and plows on village chiefs whose gratitude is expected to be a reciprocal harvest of votes.”
The two allegations are contradictory. If Mugabe has rigged the elections, why does he need to buy votes?
As is true when imperialist states, the Western media, NGOs and peace and civil society scholars collaborate to bring down governments that refuse to do the West’s bidding, reality has been turned on its head.
While the case that says Mugabe has predetermined the outcome of the election has become the dominant view, through sheer repetition by a Western media that serves as a platform for a bought opposition and civil society, the evidence is paper thin.
The evidence that what is, in fact, predetermined, is the opposition and NGO judgment of the election, is far more compelling.