HomeCommentEditor's Memo

Editor’s Memo

ON Sunday Cypriots go to the polls for the second time inside a month to choose a president in second round elections after President Tassos Papadopoulos was eliminated on Sunday in the first round of Cyprus’s presidential election.

Here is a chance to beat Mugabe 

Associated Press reported that the cliffhanger election saw three candidates neck-and-neck until the very last minute, the first time in Cyprus that a poll has been so closely contested by three candidates.

Communist party leader Demetris Christofias and former Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides of the right-wing DISY party will now vie for the five-year presidency in the runoff.

Final results showed Kasoulides with a very slight lead, on 33,51% compared with 33,29 % for Christofias. Papadopoulos was close behind with 31,79 %.

Both are seen as more moderate and have said they want speedy negotiations with the Turkish Cypriots who have been split from the Greek Cypriot south since 1974, when a failed bid to unite the island with Greece triggered a Turkish invasion.

The island’s division has proven a major stumbling block to Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union.

Despite coming from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, Kasoulides and Christofias have both stressed the need for a “diplomatic offensive” to stave off the threat of permanent partition.

Talks to reunite the island have been deadlocked for years.

There are parallels between the politics in Cyprus and our own. There are now very realistic prospects of a first ever presidential election run-off in Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe’s chances of winning an absolute majority of 51% of the vote have dimmed since the entry of Simba Makoni into the political race.

There are salutary lessons from Cyprus for Mugabe.

Like Papadopoulos, his two opponents Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni may be coming from opposing ends of the political spectrum but they share one school of thought which is also a cross-cutting factor among their respective supporters.

They believe that Mugabe is the problem just as supporters of Christofias and Kasoulides saw Papadopoulos as a major bulwark against any attempts at unification and ultimately admittance into the European Union. He has been removed from the race and in the second round of polling, Cypriots now have to decide between a communist leader and a right winger to fulfill national aspirations.

Next month, Mugabe goes into the race as the fall guy here because supporters of Tsvangirai and Makoni regard Mugabe as the greatest impediment to social development because of his government’s paper trail of disaster spanning over two decades.

Mugabe’s adversaries in the poll have adopted campaign themes that put pressure on the octogenarian leader.

Tsvangirai is promising voters “a new beginning” and Makoni has adopted “dawn” as his war cry.

President Mugabe’s Zanu PF is yet to come up with its manifesto and campaign theme.

But pronouncements by the party’s candidates in rallies lately present clues of what this election is about for Zanu PF. It is about consolidation. It is about continuity. It is about history. More accurately, it is about stagnation.

The people are yearning for freshness and innovation. This will not work for Zanu PF especially when there is nothing new about the supposed gem in the window.

Mugabe today cannot be associated with any novelty. The best propaganda handlers in Zanu PF can do is to continue to package the aged leader as a sabre-rattling gladiator fighting the evil ghost of colonialism and imperialism.

This is an environment dominated by general shortages, poverty, hyperinflation, low productivity in industry and an embarrassing collapse of social services and infrastructure.

But Mugabe will still get votes albeit a much reduced tally when compared to his achievements in 2002.

There is scope in concluding that Mugabe has lost ground since then; so has Tsvangirai due to his failure to capitalise on the doom and gloom engulfing the nation.

The lost ground by both Mugabe and Tsvangirai presents a good opportunity for the protest vote which could see the presidential poll returning figures not very different from the recent Cypriot elections.

Depending on how Makoni and Tsvangirai put together their campaigns, they have a real good chance of relegating Mugabe to third place in the poll and effectively condemning the Zanu PF system of governance to the scrapyard of history.

What stands between success and failure for oppositional forces is their shortcomings in mobilising against Mugabe’s cunning.

By Vincent Kahiya

Previous articleComment
Next articleMuckRaker

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading