|President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe: AFP|
IF YOU take President Robert Mugabe’s recent declaration at face value, Zimbabwe will have another general election by the end of next year. That will be three-and-a-half years after his long-ruling Zanu-PF party indisputably lost to the rival Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai (right, above), but then refused to concede. Mr Tsvangirai, as compensation, became a distinctly second-fiddle prime minister. Next time, despite all the tricks Mr Mugabe and his party are sure to play, they could well lose again. There is at least a chance that the president will step down and that, at last, less fettered power will be handed to Mr Tsvangirai.
Many—perhaps most—perceptive Zimbabweans think such a prospect fanciful. Why, they ask, should the thugs round Mr Mugabe behave any differently next time, especially when their own ill-gotten gains are at stake? And yet, though the economy is still in ruins, politics messy and human rights persistently violated, the picture is definitely less bad than it was two years ago. It is widely considered, with good reason, that Mr Mugabe is running rings round Mr Tsvangirai and is preventing the MDC and its allies from enjoying their rights as a majority in parliament. All the same, a steady momentum is growing for change—and against Mr Mugabe.
Moreover, though recent reports of the 86-year-old leader’s impending demise were based on his occasional sleepiness at official functions and a stumble or two on ceremonial steps, plainly he could drop dead tomorrow. Behind the scenes, feuding within the ruling party over the succession is getting hotter.
(Click here to read the full story on The Economist website.)