If Americans wonder why the just completed parliamentary election in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe should concern them, consider the ramifications in terms of terrorism.
President Robert Mugabe, who has run the country since its independence from Britain in 1980, has said that the results of Thursday's voting are not only a vindication of his tenure, but a green light from the people to rule the country as he sees fit. And one of things he will do with his majority in parliament is to amend the constitution.
The changes he envisions would solidify his position as president -- he says he wants to serve until he is 100 -- and eliminate all vestiges of democracy.
If he succeeds in accomplishing those goals, he will embolden other African leaders to follow his lead. Such dictatorial regimes cannot survive on their own, which means they would be easy marks for the likes of Al-Qaida and other international terrorist organizations that view the west, in particular the United States, as the enemy.
That is why Zimbabwe's election results must not be allowed to stand. Independent observers who were present prior and during the voting, and a majority of African countries agree that there was widespread voter fraud and intimidation of supporters of opposition parties.
The United Nations and the African Union should move quickly to let Mugabe know that his insistence on embracing the outcome of this joke of an election will not only result in economic sanctions, but will bring major financial support for Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change. Aware of the willingness of the ruling African National Union-Patriotic Front, ZANU-PF, to use violence to silence its critics, Tsvangirai said Sunday he would not support national demonstrations to challenge the results.
While that reluctance has brought criticism from some members of his party who want to replicate what has been going on in former Soviet Union satellite countries, Tsvangirai is right in worrying about the safety of his followers.
After all, Mugabe has shown little respect for human rights and even less concern for world opinion.
The only way to ensure fair elections is for the United Nations to establish clear rules and regulations and follow what was done in Iraq to give voters confidence that their going to the polls would not result in death or injury.
The United States, which is fighting terrorism on a global scale, would be permitting terrorist organizations to gain important footholds in countries like Zimbabwe if it does not become actively involved in the effort to hold a new election.
This isn't about some isolated banana republic led by a megalomaniac. Mugabe's ability to not only hold on to the reins of power but to dismantle any vestiges of democracy would send a message to other like-minded dictators that they are free to do as they please because the U.S. and other democracies don't care.