How authoritarian leaders remain in power and circumvent the democratic process: a case study of Robert Mugabe since 2000

Colbourne, Kevin
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Abstract Given the failing Zimbabwean state, it is imperative to understand the role of the government of Robert Mugabe in its failure to provide democratic freedom and a functional economy. According to Mugabe, the economy is failing due to the enforcement of trade sanctions and the reduction in development aid. However, given that the international community is only willing to remove these impediments to economic development once Robert Mugabe leaves power, the President still maintains his grip on power. Even though the vast majority of Zimbabwe’s population is suffering under an economic meltdown, a rapidly declining life expectancy, and oppressive government actions limiting free speech and political participation, Robert Mugabe has managed to not only retain his grip on power but justify his continued leadership to members of the African community. How a leader like this manages to avoid pressures to resolve such a dehumanizing crisis for so many years is perplexing. This report looks at the key tactics used by President Mugabe to remain in power by circumventing the democratic electoral process in Zimbabwe when the stakes became higher in 2000. The report looks at the Zimbabwe situation until the second round of elections in 2008 and does not cover the events of 2009. Through the close examination of The Logic of Political Survival (Bueno de Mesquita, Smith, Siverson and Morrow, 2003) and its selectorate theory, the paper concludes that the basis for longevity in power is not only based on oppression and loyalty but on the mentality of entitlement. After dealing with the question of how an authoritarian leader remains in power despite the social and economic devastation he or she may have caused, one is left with the question of how a society can reverse this notion of entitlement in order to free itself from oppression and economic devastation often brought on by such leaders.