Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cars for Votes ? Nah, Just the Dictator Racket

Reuters reports that Zimbabwe's resident tin-pot, Robert Mugabe, is handing out cars to doctors in advance of Saturday's supposed elections. It's not only cars for doctors, but the Mugabe regime is handing out farm equipment, buses, probably even dates with Spitzer's whores.
The opposition is accusing the Leader of "vote-buying." Ha. Shows what they know, although it might work for Hillary and Obama on their superdelegates. Actually, Tyrant Mugabe's not buying votes from the doctors, or anybody else, nor is he paying very much.
In the first place (even assuming the doctors are allowed by Mugabe's goons to actually drive off in these cars) they probably won't get very far: how are they going to fuel the things ? Most gas stations are closed -- Mugabe's not got the foreign exchange to afford fuel for ordinary people. Gas is just one economic worry: as an: 80 percent unemployment and a 100,580 percent inflation rate possibly illustrate. Bread is Zim$ 25 million (62 cents US). Maybe the doctors can sell their cars abroad for food (good luck getting them out). Besides, who wants gifts like that ? Mugabe can just take them back again the day after the "elections." The whole exercise is less about buying votes than showing Mugabe's goons that the Boss still has perks to give out and impressing Doubting Thomases with the regime's power.
These "elections" are more interesting than normal for Zimbabwe (so far, their national history is "one man, one vote, once"). This time round there may actually be real opposition to the 84 year old Mr. Mugabe. No, not Morgan Tsvangirai. Brave as Mr. Tsvangirai is, the real opposition is the former Minister of Finance and Development, Simba Makoni, a defector from Mr. Mugabe's own party. Mr. Makoni might actually have a prayer at winning the real election -- that is, getting the security forces and the party apparat to turn on Mr. Mugabe. More likely he'll wind up dead or exiled.
Still, the Bloomberg piece linked above (in connection with the inflation number) says that the mining industry and its investors are betting that Fat Bob's days as Jefe of Zimbabwe are numbered. Quite possibly correct, but I seriously doubt the vehicle will be a free and fair election. More likely a case of lead poisoning.
Being a dictator/man of destiny like Fat Bob is a hard job: both physically and mentally challenging and possibly beyond the ability of an 84 year old to keep performing much longer. The basic elements of the President for Life gig are a source of foreign exchange; rich people (who didn’t flee in time) for the Leader to expropriate; a foreign enemy to rhetorically rail against; and a youngish leader who has the stones for the job.
Most importantly, dictatorship is not a one man occupation -- the supporting cast is essential. You need lots of young idiots mouthing slogans, stiffened by a cadre of careerists without scruples who’d jail their own mommas for a spiffy uniform and a percentage; plus ceaseless mobilization of everybody and everything (to keep an eye on people and make them feel important all at once – like Chavez’s “Bolivarian Circles”, the Soviet “Young Pioneers” or the Hitler Youth). Finally, the would-be boss thrives with a compliant bureaucracy that doesn't ask questions if the forms are in order, and plenty of good lawyers. The business class might not be an obstacle if the Leader keeps the graft in reasonable bounds: with some lawyers they'll become good at gaming the system to their own advantage and using it to crush their smaller rivals.
A good extra is an obvious hated minority for ordinary slugs to feel superior to (recent example would be Tibetans to Han Chinese). Also, dictators need some Useful Idiots (academic or media types are best) to run interference in the US and Euro media. Take all this, add a dash of good propaganda, and you have the makings of a real successful and long-running cult-of-personality People’s Democracy.
But the dictator ecosystem eventually breaks down, usually over the leadership succession; or the economy seizes up (too much spending, nothing left to steal); or the dictator allows rivals to develop as he ages. Sometimes all three, which is what seems to be happening in Zimbabwe. The story usually ends badly. . .and in Fat Bob Mugabe's case, here’s hoping it’s sooner, rather than later.


louielouie said...

i've said this on more than one occasion, so i'm sure by now you're bored.
when you start talking about dictators you start out filling in the details and describing the obvious.
but as you get farther into the subject, your delivery and description change subtely, and to some may even go unnoticed. but your description and familiarity with detail is just waaaay too comfortable.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Yes, in a previous life, I was the Supreme Leader of Ruritania...

El Jefe Maximo said...

Okay, I really enjoy playing Tropico too much.