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constitutional referendum, Zimbabwean government, legislative elections, majority rule, House of Assembly

In the early 1990s the transition to majority rule in South Africa coincided with peace negotiations in Mozambique, and the economic crisis in Zimbabwe began to lift. In exchange for economic aid and assistance from the World Bank and the IMF, Zimbabwe agreed to a structural adjustment package designed to move the country from a state-controlled economy to a free-market economy. ZANU-PF won 82 percent of the vote in 1995 legislative elections. Mugabe was reelected as president in 1996, running unopposed after the withdrawal of two opposition candidates who protested against allegedly unfair electoral regulations.

In 1997 Mugabe announced a controversial program of land redistribution. About 1,500 white-owned commercial farms, making up nearly half of Zimbabwe’s total commercial farmland, were designated to be seized without compensation and divided among landless blacks and blacks with only small landholdings. Faced with strong protests by white farmers and the international economic community, the Zimbabwean government retreated from this position. In what was widely seen as a significant challenge to Mugabe’s authority, Zimbabwean voters in February 2000 rejected a constitutional referendum that would have expanded Mugabe’s powers and allowed the government to seize white-owned farms without compensation. Soon after the referendum, Zimbabweans claiming to be veterans of the country’s war of independence began violently occupying white-owned farms. In June legislative elections, ZANU-PF narrowly edged the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)—an opposition party formed in 1999—for a majority of seats in the House of Assembly. ZANU-PF forces were accused of harassing opposition parties and intimidating voters in the days before the elections. Mugabe was reelected president in March 2002. Allegations of voter intimidation and other irregularities led some international observers to declare the presidential election flawed.

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