As the sole remaining candidate in Zimbabwe's presidential election run-off on 27 June, Robert Mugabe should win. But then what?
"The most likely scenario is that Mugabe will go ahead with Friday's election and win it," said political analyst Brian Raftopolous. The economy would continue to decline, as little in the way of aid, investment or reforms would be forthcoming to help the country back on its feet, he added.
John Clancy, spokesman for Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, commented: "Certain minimum international standards of democracy and human rights have to be in place [before significant aid can be provided]. Only then can we work hand-in-hand with the government on a [development] programme."
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mugabe's only challenger, has dropped out of the race, saying he needed to save the lives of his supporters, who have become targets of the ruling-party militia. According to the MDC, more than 86 of its supporters have been killed since the general elections on 29 March, in which the MDC won a parliamentary majority.
The international community, through the UN Security Council, has already indicated that it does "not regard Friday's election as legitimate", said Pascal Richard, coordinator of Zimbabwe Watch, a lobby group based in the Netherlands. The United States has announced that it will not accept the outcome of the presidential run-off on 27 June.
But if post-election negotiations led to a transitional government of national unity involving Tsvangirai or the MDC, that could complicate the international response.
One Western diplomat told IRIN that lines of credit would remain closed to any government of national unity with Mugabe in the picture. "Basically, the re-establishment of economic relations can only happen under a new government; under Mugabe, the government would continue with its atrocious human rights record and destructive policies," he said.
"It is evident that even under the proposed government of national unity, Mugabe wants to come in as head of that set-up, which again would be unacceptable because he used violence which resulted in the capitulation of the opposition and the subsequent pulling out of the MDC candidate from the presidential election run-off."
But Clancy offered an alternative interpretation. "We at the EU would support some form of negotiated transitional government, i.e. a power-sharing scenario," he said. "We want to avoid a black-hole scenario [in which political reforms are made] but support structures are not there, and the situation gets worse. We would be ready to step in and prop up [a transitional government]."
Zimbabwe Watch's Richard pointed out that many members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had moved beyond the question of legitimacy of the run-off on Friday 27 June and were concerned about the region's security, a concern that was also raised in the UN Security Council.
|Zimbabwe has the potential to recover reasonably quickly from the crisis, but it really does depend on factors that are outside of our control|
It is estimated that between three million and five million Zimbabweans have fled repression and economic decline in their home country to seek safety and a better life in South Africa, the regional superpower, but recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa have forced many to turn to neighbouring Zambia and Botswana instead. "None of these countries can handle the influx of migrants," Richard noted.
"If he [Mugabe] goes ahead with the election he could face regional isolation, with the possible exception of South Africa, which still believes it can negotiate with Mugabe," said Eleanor Sisulu, coordinator in South Africa of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an umbrella body for more than 200 Zimbabwean non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
"We could have a situation similar to Burma, except that Zimbabwe is a landlocked country and is dependant on its neighbours." Zimbabwe also depends on South Africa and Mozambique for its power needs.
To prop up
Paul Wolfowitz, former president of the World Bank, noted in an article in the Wall Street Journal on 25 June that the international community would have to pledge its financial support to a new Zimbabwean government in a post-Mugabe scenario.
Even if Tsvangirai were to become president, "he would still face a daunting set of problems: restoring an economy in which hyperinflation has effectively destroyed the currency and unemployment is a staggering 70 percent; getting emergency food aid to millions who are at risk of starvation and disease; promoting reconciliation after the terrible violence; and undoing Mugabe's damaging policies without engendering a violent backlash," Wolfowitz wrote.
The World Bank would only begin lending money to the Zimbabwean government after it had put in place a recovery programme, with a strategy to clear its arrears of just under US$0.6 billion it owes the bank, Mungai Lenneiye, the bank's acting country manager, told IRIN earlier this year.
Lenneiye said the Zimbabwean government had already outlined a draft "Stabilisation and Short-Term Recovery Programme" (SSTRP) for implementation in 2008, aimed at achieving macro-economic stability and restoring production.
"The SSTRP outlines government's intentions to move towards a unified exchange rate, removal of price distortions in the economy, and restoration of agricultural production as a first step to bring down the very high rate of inflation," Lenneiye said. Zimbabwe's inflation rate is estimated at well over a million percent.
If the SSTRP is "successfully implemented, without major slippages, much progress could be achieved within the following five years," Lenneiye noted. "Zimbabwe has an abundant supply of minerals, rich agricultural land, and skilled personnel [although many have left to work in South Africa, the UK and other countries with stable economies] and this is a good basis for a quick turn-around in the right policy environment."
The turn-around would hinge on government's commitment to market-based economic reform, Lenneiye said, "but it can be greatly assisted by the availability of a predictable inflow of Balance of Payments support, restored donor assistance, and foreign direct investments [including remittances from Zimbabweans in the diaspora]".
Clancy said the EU would have to look at "the short, medium and long term, and structure assistance accordingly. The immediate needs would be the humanitarian sphere, and we would need to evaluate, with our humanitarian partners like the UN, to see where emergency funding would be needed."
According to a recent joint assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme, at least five million Zimbabweans will be in need of food by September. "Zimbabwe does not have the capacity to feed its people," said Richard.
Clancy maintained that "Zimbabwe has the potential to recover reasonably quickly from the crisis, but it really does depend on factors that are outside of our control", and said a donor conference to help Zimbabwe recover could be possible.
Wolfowitz suggested that a non-Western institution, such as the African Development Bank, might take the lead in summoning a Friends of Zimbabwe conference that could include wealthy oil-producing countries, and possibly China and India, which have shown a new interest in Africa.