Zimwatch: Endgame

Have I been too pessimistic? Perhaps. Robert Mugabe was one of those strange creatures who preserved the forms of the constitution even if they used these in an authoritarian manner that eventually destroyed their country. It has taken a long time for all Zimbabweans to provide too large a vote of opposition for rigging too work.

Now face-saving measures are taking place between ZANU-PF and the MDC, with South African mediation. Mugabe is said to be tired and does not want the national humiliation of a second round. The kleptocratic elite relies on his victory:

Tendai Biti, the secretary-general of the MDC, said Mr Mugabe was under pressure from hardliners, notably the military commanders who wield exceptional power.

"There are hawks and doves. There are people in Mugabe's courtyard who have to pay school fees in Australia and the UK who are saying 'you can't go'. They want him to prop them up. But he wants to go. He is old, he is tired and he has no punch any more."

This is heartening news but the hardliners are concentrated in the armed forces. In times past, they have tended to hold coup d'etats, formalising their hold on power. Will this take place now, in the name of national emergency? A further twist in the downward spiral.