General Pervez Musharraf’s “election” last weekend as Pakistan’s president was a perversion of democracy. The vote was not really a vote since, knowing how badly the deck was stacked, the opposition parties refused to participate. The results must be certified by the country’s Supreme Court, which must decide whether Musharraf was even eligible to run while still in uniform.

When confronted with mass protests this summer, Musharraf even threatened to suspend the Parliament and impose martial law. It took a 2 a.m. phone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to get him to back down. Almost all of the time, President Bush has acquiesced in Musharraf’s many misdeeds. Musharraf’s back-room deal with Benazir Bhutto — encouraged by Washington — is his latest attempt to buy time and stay in office.

Rather than encourage such cynical deal-making, Bush should have encouraged a more inclusive election process that so many Pakistanis want. If Pakistan’s SC rules that Musharraf’s is ineligible to be president, he must allow what didn’t happen this weekend — a real free vote. Washington has to make clear that its days of buying time for Musharraf are over. Rather than wa-iting until 2 a.m. this time, Rice and her boss, President Bush, should deliver that message to the general now. — International Herald Tribune