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Robert Mugabe vs. Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, and his party have been trying to blow up the power-sharing arrangement ever since neighboring states put it together last year.

They are now perilously close to succeeding. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced last week that he and his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, would boycott cabinet meetings to protest the arrest and detention of an important party leader, one of a long series of arrests ordered by Mr. Mugabe to make power-sharing unworkable.

The departure of Mr. Tsvangirai and his allies from government would be a disaster for Zimbabwe’s long-suffering people. The Southern African Development Community, the 15-member regional organization that brokered the deal, must demand that Mr. Mugabe finally abide by its terms and spirit.

If he refuses, the community should withdraw recognition from his government and insist on new, internationally supervised elections.
Mr. Tsvangirai clearly won the first round of Zimbabwe’s 2008 presidential vote.

Then Mr. Mugabe let loose the army and thugs from his party, ZANU-PF, who made it impossible for Mr. Tsvangirai to continue campaigning for the decisive second round.

Mr. Mugabe claimed re-election by default, but few recognized his rule as legitimate. The United States and the European Union applied constructive pressure by tightening financial sanctions against Mr. Mugabe’s close associates.

At that point other African leaders should have pressed Mr. Mugabe to organize new elections or step aside. Instead, they devised a deeply flawed “power-sharing” deal. It provided for Mr. Mugabe to continue as president and Mr. Tsvangirai to be named prime minister.

Cabinet jobs were apportioned. But Mr. Mugabe’s loyalists kept control of the army, police and the courts and used that power to arrest and intimidate opposition leaders, including members of the new government.

The new cabinet put honest and competent opposition leaders in charge of education, health, housing and child welfare. Their efforts, along with the help they enlisted from international relief agencies, turned back a deadly cholera epidemic and famine, slowed the crippling exodus of teachers and made it possible for Zimbabwe’s next generation to imagine a better future.

If power-sharing can be saved, those ministries need to stay in qualified hands. ZANU-PF’s grip on the army and courts must be loosened and a nonpolitical expert should be named to run the central bank.

If Mr. Mugabe won’t agree to those terms, new elections must be scheduled, with active international supervision, so that democracy, not intimidation, determines their outcome. New York Times Editorial