The patience of the people of Zimbabwe is absolutely incredible. They've been living a nightmare for years (inflation is so high that a second cup of coffee in half an hour can cost twice as much as the first) and they just endured a election campaign with serious instances of vote-rigging - from ghosts on the voters' registry to bribes offered for voting for the ruling party (ZANU-PF) - yet amazing hope was the dominant emotion as people went to the polls on March 29. The voting process was calm, and the day unusually quiet.
The polls closed at 7 p.m. on Saturday night. As I write, more than two full days have passed since then, but no official results in the presidential election have been announced and official Parliamentary and local results are only dribbling in. The entire country is holding its collective breath to see whether Robert Mugabe will relinquish his hold on the presidency or rig the results and stay in power after 28 years. As the time passes, the level of frustration is rising and the atmosphere is increasingly charged.
Within a few hours after the voting ended, results were posted outside every polling place in the country. Saturday night and Sunday during the day the tallies were collected and collated by representatives of the political parties and by independent observers. Preliminary results indicated an overwhelming victory for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party, and the delay in publication of official election results is fueling suspicions that the president is refusing to step down and is cooking the results so he can stay in power. Pessimists had been predicting all along that Mugabe would steal the elections. Their fears may yet be realized.
Marie Dennis, executive director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and co-president of Pax Christi International, is serving as an election observer in Zimbabwe.