Despite claims from the opposition party that they won 50.3% of the vote from the weekend’s presidential election, Zimbabwe’s state-run newspaper claimed today that no one had reached 50% and that a runoff election between the 28-year incumbent Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was likely. The International Herald Tribune reports that a runoff is just one of the many options Mugabe’s government considered when faced with their electoral defeat:

A Zimbabwean businessman with close links to the governing party, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the nation’s military and intelligence chiefs discussed several options with the president after the vote appeared to go badly for him. These options included the outright rigging of the election, going to a runoff and even the “elimination” of Tsvangirai, the businessman said.

Violence and fraud would unfortunately be nothing new for Mugabe’s regime. Since coming to power Mugabe has never shied away from the violence necessary to impose his leftist economic policies, which include the nationalizing of the country’s farmland, price controls on key commodities, and subsidies for friendly businesses. Mugabe is the reason Zimbabwe ranks as the 155th most free country out of 157 in The Heritage Foundation’s 2008 Index of Economic Freedom.

This January The Heritage Foundation hosted Shadow Justice Minister and Member of Parliament in Zimbabwe, The Honorable David Coltart (watch his address here). At the time Coltart gave a stark but hopeful assessment on the prospect for a victory for freedom in March’s election.