ROBERT Mugabe's long run in Zimbabwe almost certainly is near its end. The 84-year-old president, the only one Zimbabwe has known since gaining independence from Britain in 1980, is headed for a runoff election after finishing second in voting. There, it's likely challenger Morgan Tsyangirai will complete Mugabe's ouster, which he fell just short of doing a little more than a week ago.
How short is unknown. Zimbabwe's election commission, ostensibly under Mugabe's executive control, had not published results from the March 29 vote, reporting only that Tsyangirai didn't receive the 50 percent plus one needed to avoid a runoff. A few days after the election, Tsyangirai's party claimed he won 50.3 percent. Even so, Mugabe's exit appears near, barring a rigged runoff. Not that election chicanery is inconceivable. Tsyangirai claims the 2002 presidential vote was stolen. Mugabe, who championed Zimbabwe's independence struggle against minority rule, has transformed into a ruthless autocrat, using terror campaigns and other intimidation tactics to hold power. That's why a spokesman for Tsyangirai's party demanded published election results before "mischief fills in.” Clearly, Zimbabweans are looking to the future.