They may be worlds apart, one calling himself leader of the free world and the other branded a fascist dictator, but United States President George Bush and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe have one thing in common. They both seem to have stolen their presidential elections.
A senior Bush official Walter Kansteiner this month said the United States government did not recognise Mugabe’s government and was working to oust him in power.
“We do not see President Mugabe as the democratically legitimate leader of the country,” he said. “The political status quo is unacceptable because the elections were fraudulent. So we are working with others, other countries in the region as well as throughout the world, on how we can in fact, together, encourage the body politic of Zimbabwe to in fact go forward and correct that situation.”
While Zimbabwe may not have the resources to mobilise the world against Bush, an article by United States journalist Robert Parry, published on August 5, also implies that Bush stole the United States presidency.
The article says a report released last month, 19 months after the presidential elections, shows that the Bush camp paid out US$13.8 million to frustrate the recount of Florida’s votes for Bush. Gore only spent US$3.2 million, less than the US$4.4 million Bush spent on lawyers alone.
In fact, Parry’s article reads more like a campaign strategy for ZANU-PF. The Bush administration paid for rioters, dubbed the “Brooks Brothers rioters” to frustrate the recount.
According to the article, the documents released on 15 July, “show that the Bush organisation put on the payroll about 250 staffers, spent about US$1.2 million to fly operatives from Florida and elsewhere, and paid for hotel bills adding up to about US$1 million. To add flexibility to the travel arrangements, a fleet of jets was assembled including planes owned by Enron Corp, then run by Bush backer Kenneth Lay, and Halliburton Co. where Dick Cheney has served as chairman and chief executive officer”.
Some of the protesters are now in Bush’s administration.
“Three of the Miami protesters are now members of Bush’s White House staff, the Miami Herald reported last month,” the article says. “They include (Matt) Schlapp who is now special assistant to the President; (Garry) Malphrus who is now deputy director of the President’s Domestic Policy Council; and Joel Kaplan, another special assistant to the President.”
The article says an unofficial count showed that Gore had in fact won the presidency.
“Backed by the US$13.8 million war chest, the Bush operation made clear in Miami and in other protests that it was ready to kick up plenty of political dust if it didn’t get its way. A later unofficial recount by news organisations found that if all legally cast ballots in Florida had been counted- regardless of which kinds of chads were accepted, whether punched through, hanging or dimpled- Gore would have won Florida and thus the presidency. Gore also won the national popular vote, defeating Bush by more than half a million votes, making Bush the first popular vote loser in more than a century to be installed in the White House.”
Just like Mugabe who had been accused of bussing people, the Bush campaign did the same thing according to the article.
“The evidence also is clear that the Bush campaign organised the transportation of Republican activists across state lines into Florida. As early as mid-November, the Bush campaign called on activists to rush to Florida and promised to pay their expenses.
“We now need to send reinforcements,” the Bush campaign said in an appeal on 18 November 2000. “The campaign will pay airfare and hotel expenses for people willing to go”.
These reinforcements –many of them Republican staffers from Capitol Hill- added an angrier tone to the duelling street protests already underway between supporters of Bush and Gore. The new wave of Republican activists injected “venom and volatility into an already edgy situation,” wrote Jake Tapper in his book on the recount, Down and Dirty.
And just like the Mugabe administration which has been accused of not allowing anything to stand in the way of his victory, the article says the same thing about the rioters.
“The Brooks Brothers Riot also represented an escalation of tactics, demonstrating the potential for spiralling political violence if the recount battle dragged on. The Republicans were putting down a marker that they were prepared to do what was necessary to win, regardless of what the voters wanted.”