The political situation in Zimbabwe is turbulent. President Robert Mugabe has been in power since 1987. In the past
the opposition was ineffective but this has changed with the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). They have gained
support from a large percentage of the population and have threatened Mugabe's power for the first time. The rivalry between the two
is fierce and there has been an escalation in political violence as a result.
Mugabe has taken some extreme measures in an effort to consolidate his power. These include the passing of draconian media laws as
well as legislation that restricts the freedom of expression of the population. His election campaigning tactics have included
roadblocks for those attending opposition rallies.
A power-sharing government formed in February 2009, with Robert Mugabe continuing as president and opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai installed as prime minister, has failed to end rights abuses or to institute fundamental reforms.
ZANU-PF is supposed to be a partner with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the new government, but it has failed to
implement key provisions of the power-sharing agreement. ZANU-PF continues to use its control of the security forces and the
judiciary to harass, abduct, torture, and kill those it considers opponents, including senior MDC figures. Despite this,
Mugabe's allies in southern Africa have repeatedly and prematurely called for the lifting of targeted travel restrictions
against ZANU-PF leaders.
Despite the formation of the power-sharing government and a slight improvement in the economy, serious challenges remain.
Zimbabwe's longstanding authoritarian rule and associated economic crisis plunged it into a humanitarian crisis that peaked in
February 2009 with a severe cholera outbreak that by June had left up to 100,000 infected and over 4,200 dead. Levels of infant
and maternal mortality rose sharply, marking the collapse of Zimbabwe's health system. Over five million people faced severe
food shortages and had to rely on international aid. In September United Nations agencies reported that Zimbabwe required more
than 2 million metric tons of cereal but had only 1.2 million.