Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is pressing ahead with a presidential runoff election Friday, without an opponent and in the face of global calls, including from his neighbors, to postpone the poll. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg.
Mr. Mugabe is determined to have the election he believes could legitimize a further five years as president of Zimbabwe. But the violence used by his supporters since March has instead alienated regional leaders, the very individuals he hoped would set the seal of approval on his victory and next term in office.
Now, says senior researcher Chris Maroleng, Mr. Mugabe is facing isolation from his old comrades.
"And I think increasing calls from the region and the sub-region indicate that President Robert Mugabe will face serious opposition to his leadership of Zimbabwe if there is an election tomorrow and more importantly if he declares himself to be the winner of this runoff," he said.
For some time now, regional leaders have believed that an orderly transfer of power in Zimbabwe might not be attainable without some sort of negotiated transitional power-sharing arrangement. Maroleng, of the independent Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, says Mr. Mugabe believed he could be the one to control the outcome.
"One of the key things is that President Robert Mugabe wanted to be able to have the right to convene a government after the election, but more importantly anticipating calls from the international community and SADC to convene a government of national unity, he wanted to determine its composition," he added.
Maroleng says that when Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the runoff poll this week, he effectively removed any strength that Mr. Mugabe may have accrued, even through a discredited election. Now he says the right to convene a government of national unity belongs to Mr. Tsvangirai.
But Maroleng does not expect any concessions from Mr. Mugabe. He says the Zimbabwe president is likely to join with state security organizations to further militarize the state and crack down on opposition and civil society elements.
"I think we are really at the tipping point in Zimbabwe, and this could create a future that has a greater variant of autocracy and dictatorship with some kind of civilian face represented in this instance by President Robert Mugabe and his close associates within ZANU-PF," he noted.
Maroleng says this would result in further economic decline, a hardening of the humanitarian situation and an unstable political environment leading to major conflict.