"We shed a lot of blood for this country; we are not going to give up our country for a mere X on a ballot. How can a ball point pen fight with a gun?"

- President Robert Mugabe, 14 June 2008

2008 saw Zimbabwe hold harmonized elections (council, senatorial, parliamentary, and presidential elections at once) on March, 29th. Independent since 1980, the country had recently been plagued by hyperinflation, unemployment, and economic collapse. Opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai from the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) won the presidential race with 47,87% of the vote, but a runoff became necessary due to the lack of an absolute majority.

Tellingly, results were not announced until 5 weeks after the harmonized elections. Despite flaws like these, African election monitoring missions generally portrayed the first stage of the elections as a step forward for the country. Western election monitoring had been prohibited by Robert Mugabe, president since 1987 and head of the ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front) ruling party.

The situation in Zimbabwe exploded during the lead-up to the runoff between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. Supporters of the MDC opposition were attacked on the street, sometimes even abducted and killed, or their houses were burnt down. Journalists experienced death threats. Campaigning was made impossible for the opposition. The runoff on June, 27th was finally "won" by the incumbent, who was the single candidate remaining. The extremely violent climate had made Tsvangirai withdraw his candidacy six days before the election.

Attempts by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to mediate between ZANU-PF and MDC were lead by Thabo Mbeki. They resulted in the formation of a government of national unity on September, 28th, with Tsvangirai becoming prime minister and Mugabe staying president.

Brevity Quest 2015 - 295 words

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