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Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Sunday, 29 June 2008 16:31 UK

Zimbabwe: Possible scenarios

Robert Mugabe and his supporters

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has been declared the winner of a run-off election in which he was the only candidate after the withdrawal of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. We look at the possible scenarios ahead for Zimbabwe.

Mugabe isolated internationally and regionally

The US and UK governments have said they now do not recognise Mr Mugabe as the president of Zimbabwe. They would campaign for a similar decision to be taken by the regional southern African governments, especially South Africa, and by the EU. This could prevent Mr Mugabe from attending international meetings.

Interestingly, the African Union is holding a summit on Monday. It has a rule not to accept leaders who have not been democratically elected and a process to deny them accreditation. But it would be astonishing if they took such strong action so quickly.

Sanctions increased

Sanctions might be increased. At the moment, the EU has imposed travel bans and asset-freezing measures against Mr Mugabe and 130 of his leading supporters. This list would be extended and would apply to their families as well, including children at schools and universities abroad. The US and Australia have similar targeted measures and could increase them.

The government of Zimbabwe relies heavily on its earnings from mining and there could be EU and US restrictions on companies doing business with state enterprises in Zimbabwe. Care would have to be taken not to hurt the poor, already suffering from huge inflation. The loophole is that China or other countries might step in to fill any gap.

The UN has no sanctions on Zimbabwe. Whether the Security Council would impose any must be doubtful at the moment.

Some have called for South Africa to cut electricity supplies, or for landlocked Zimbabwe's neighbours to impose a blockade but such measures would obviously hit ordinary people worst and so are unlikely.

Government of national unity

The MDC would offer negotiations and, realising that his position internationally and regionally is weakened, Mr Mugabe agrees to form a coalition government. New elections would follow.

The key question here is whether Mr Mugabe would remain president. If he did, would the MDC agree? If not, would he agree? Any agreement would also need pressure on Mr Mugabe from South Africa and other regional governments and the African Union. Also, there would need to be guarantees that the new elections would be free and fair.

Collapse of Zanu-PF leadership

Mr Mugabe's close associates would break into factions, with some wanting to find a safe way out for themselves (through an immunity deal with the MDC, for example). Others might fight on, but in the end, even they might realise it was over, would turn on Mr Mugabe and tell him to go. Without support from the powerful security force elements, Mr Mugabe could not enforce his will. Despite reports of splits within Zanu-PF, the campaign of violence shows they remain united.

Civil unrest and economic deprivation

This is the more of the same scenario. There could be violence as Zanu-PF seeks to establish total control under a renewed Mugabe presidency. Economically, the country falls into subsistence living. The chances of a full-scale civil war look remote at the moment, given the weakness of the MDC and the intimidation used by Zanu-PF.

Military intervention

Mr Tsvangirai has called for armed peacekeepers to be sent to Zimbabwe, but no government has shown any desire to send in troops to invade and remove Mr Mugabe from power. Such a move would need to be authorised by a UN Security Council resolution. This would be very difficult to get, even if anyone proposed it, which is unlikely at the moment.

Zimbabwe's army would resist any foreign military intervention - a civil war is probably the only thing worse than the current situation for ordinary Zimbabweans.

A humanitarian intervention, with the aim of protecting and feeding people, is a possibility if things get totally out of control. A UN authorised force might be assembled but it would be difficult to do anything if there was opposition from the Zimbabwean authorities.

International Criminal Court prosecution

The problem with this is that Zimbabwe has not signed up to the court and therefore proceedings cannot be taken against its leaders. Any legal action would need authorisation from the Security Council (along the lines of the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda).

Mr Tsvangirai had stressed that he would like Mr Mugabe to have an "honourable retirement" - but that was before the latest campaign of violence.


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