Earlier this year, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, an army man who grabbed power via a coup reversing all that feel-good Arab Spring stuff, won an election with 97% of the vote. The result was hardly surprising; he was virtually running against himself. All the other real contenders pulled out; the main rival was arrested and his campaign chief was beaten up. The rest withdrew out of fear. The one contestant left was an avowed supporter of al-Sisi.
Within months of such a sham poll, the USA released $1.2 billion in military assistance to Egypt. The IMF, pleased with al-Sisi’s reforms which include raising taxes and cutting subsidies, including on fuel, bread and electricity, approved a $2 billion tranche of Egypt’s $12 billion extended fund facility.
Zimbabwe is unlikely to get any such bailout; Egypt is key to US interests in the Middle East, so they get a pass. We are of no such strategic importance, plus we owe people money.
In November, the Nigerian army shot into a crowd of over a thousand protesters in the capital, Abuja, and killed 45 mostly young people. To justify the killings, the army used Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric, in which he said a rock is just as deadly a weapon as a gun. In response, the US urged “calm and restraint on all sides” and let it all slide.
Nigeria is not just an oil producer, but it is a useful US ally in the fight against Islamic extremism. Zimbabwe is neither.
In August, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won a 67% victory in a run-off against opposition rival Soumaila Cissé Keita. How did that election go?
In the first round, 644 polling stations, almost 14% of the total, didn’t open at all because they were attacked and burnt down by militants. Electoral officials were attacked, ballot boxes were grabbed and burnt. Some 300 people were killed in ethnic violence in the months leading to the election.
Some 250,000 people, 3% of the electorate, could not vote because of violence in the central and Northern parts of Mali, and Cissé accused Keita of stuffing ballot boxes there. The opposition claimed fraud; they said by their calculations, some voters cast their ballots in just 40 seconds at some polling stations, while in others, 100% of the votes went to Keita. This is all very familiar, right?
The opposition went to court to challenge that first-round election, and the court dismissed their case. The EU congratulated Keita on his re-election, and added, nonchalantly: “European Union expects all the stakeholders to work together to promote the interests of their country and their people.”
And was the election, which polling stations were burnt down and large populations could not vote, and in which the opposition cried fraud, credible? The EU said “our observers did not see fraud but irregularities”. And that was that.
With al Qaeda and Islamic State active in parts of Mali, the West cannot afford to shake too many tables as it would easily do in Zimbabwe.
Continued next page