In a sign of growing U.S. animosity toward Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, a senior U.S. official dismissed as “a nonevent” last weekend’s Senate poll victory by the ruling party in the southern African nation.
November 29, 2005
Washington: In a sign of growing U.S. animosity toward Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, a senior U.S. official dismissed as “a nonevent” last weekend’s Senate poll victory by the ruling party in the southern African nation.
Asked to comment on the election of a new upper chamber of parliament, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Zimbabwe’s new Senate was created by Mugabe as a “source of patronage for ruling party politicians.”
He added: “So in terms of democracy – and we talk about elections as being part of democracy – this was really a nonevent.”
Final results announced on Monday showed Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party won a broad majority in the 66-seat Senate, which will have the final word on any new laws.
Despite his party’s victory, analysts in Zimbabwe said Mugabe’s own credibility was hurt by a voter turnout of only 10 percent after a boycott campaign by the main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
McCormack said this low voter turnout reflected how Zimbabweans saw the new chamber. “It doesn’t seem as though the Zimbabwean people took these elections very seriously . . . as a real exercise in democracy.”
Last week, U.S. President George W. Bush widened economic sanctions against Zimbabwe, blocking the assets of an additional 128 people and 33 entities that Washington said undermined democratic reform. In March 2003, the United States imposed sanctions against 77 Zimbabweans.
Asked about the extended sanctions, McCormack said the United States had tried via “rhetoric” to get Mugabe to change his ways but this had not affected his behavior.
“The sanctions to which you refer are part of this – to try to convince those who are currently leading Zimbabwe that they are on the wrong path,” he told reporters.
McCormack’s comments about the weekend poll are likely to further inflame tensions between Mugabe and U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell.
Mugabe told Dell to “go to hell” earlier this month after the envoy blamed the country’s economic and political crisis on mismanagement and corrupt rule.
In power since 1980, Mugabe has strongly rejected accusations his policies have brought economic ruin to Zimbabwe and he instead blames the country’s collapse on what he says is sabotage by Western powers.