Zimbabwe: An Opportunity Lost

Issue Date January 2019
Volume 30
Issue 1
Page Numbers 143-157
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Zimbabwe’s July 2018 general election came nine months after unprecedented action by the military—a coup in all but name—led to the resignation of longtime dictator Robert Mugabe. The administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former vice-president who took power following the coup, likely saw the election as a means of securing legitimacy and easing Zimbabwe’s international isolation. Yet while the official results proclaimed a victory for Mnangagwa and his ruling ZANU-PF, the democratic legitimation they sought remains elusive. International observers criticized the lack of a level playing field, and opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa filed an unsuccessful court challenge. Moreover, the fatal shootings of at least six protesters after the balloting drew broad condemnation. Despite Mugabe’s removal, the competitive authoritarian system that he established and its current militarized incarnation continue to shape Zimbabwe’s politics.