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Mugabe Gets the Vote He Counted on

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Zimbabwe’s parliamentary election was far more peaceful than the last couple of polls, but the result was the same. By late Saturday, President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party had won 78 of the 120 seats up for grabs. Together with the 30 M.P.s appointed by the President, that assures Mugabe a compliant parliament for another five years and gives him the two-thirds majority he needs to change the constitution.

While most Zimbabweans are preoccupied by domestic crises — such as 80% unemployment and widespread hunger — Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980, and his party campaigned as if they were running against British Prime Minister Tony Blair. ZANU-PF ‘s campaign included newspaper advertisements linking Blair to Zimbabwe’s opposition and promising to end “imperialism and domination of any kind and from any quarter.” Though South Africa’s observer mission said the vote reflected “the free will of the people of Zimbabwe,” human-rights and election-monitoring groups allege that hundreds of thousands of “ghost voters” were used to manipulate the result. Mugabe dismissed claims of rigging as “nonsense.”

Can the President’s opponents do anything about the suspect results? Opposition Movement for Democratic Change ( MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai said that the ruling party had committed “disgusting, massive fraud” and called on Zimbabweans to “defend their vote.” Still, he did not go as far as Bulawayo Archbishop Pius Ncube, who said before the vote that Zimbabwe needed a “non-violent, popular mass uprising.” Any such resistance will likely spur violent retribution from the government and its affiliates. “I went to my rural home to vote and could see how people had been intimidated,” says Harare fix-it man Charles Magwenzi, 45. “The people had been warned that if there was an MDC victory, they would be beaten.”

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