Let's predict the Zimbabwe news cycle

[Daniel Drezner]

There are multiple reports that Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe has suffered a crushing defeat during this weekend's presidential election. Apparently, a 100,000% annual inflation rate and employment of around 25% of the adult population is not a vote-getter.

These same news stories also say that the government is holding off on reporting the results, suggesting that Mugabe may try to jerry-rig the results to maintain his grip on power.

I don't know what Mugabe will do, but I do know that one of two things will happen:

A) If Mugabe steps aside, there will be a spate of stories that extol the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. However, if recent history is any guide, then one should be wary of proclaiming the victory of democracy just yet. By opposition standards, the MDC has a history of being disorganized and fractious. They're clearly a better alternative to Mugabe, but I wouldn't be too optimistic.

B) If Mugabe stands firm, it would not be a real surprise. At this point, the story will quickly leave Harare and instead focus on Zimbabwe's neighbors.... and China. Beijing has favored Mugabe in the past, but the Chinese leadership has also been moving down the PR learning curve and has an Olympics to keep untarnished.