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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mugabe Wins Key Victory in Elections

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- President Robert Mugabe warned Zimbabwe's political opposition on Saturday against taking to the streets to protest its defeat in parliamentary elections this week, saying that his government "can also raise mass action against mass action, and there would naturally be conflicts, serious conflicts," as a result.

Mugabe delivered the warning as fliers circulated in Harare urging citizens to reject the results of Thursday's elections, which gutted the opposition Movement for Democratic Change of what little political clout it had enjoyed.

But there was little evidence that Zimbabweans were prepared to protest the elections, which the MDC has repeatedly called fraudulent. And the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, said Saturday that his party still had no strategy to respond to the outcome.

With all 120 legislative races decided, Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front won 78 seats, versus 41 for the MDC. The outcome was a blow to the opposition, which won 57 seats in 2000, and had been predicting gains in this week's balloting. Because Mugabe fills 30 other seats in the 150-member Parliament, his party has gained the two-thirds majority it needs to change Zimbabwe's constitution.

Western governments and human rights groups had joined the opposition in denouncing the elections as rigged even before the vote was held. Many reports have accused Mugabe's government of using tactics from threats to deny food to opposition voters, to gerrymandered legislative districts.

The opposition party said again on Saturday that the government had condoned fraud both during Thursday's vote and in the counting afterward. But two days after the elections, it has yet to detail those charges, and so the complaints remain difficult to verify or refute. An impartial assesment of the election may come when the nongovernmental Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which dispatched 6,000 observers, releases its assessment of the vote.

Any protest that might lead to violence would be met with "law and order instruments," Mugabe said. He called the opposition's supporters "a very violent people" whose protests have destroyed businesses.

Mugabe, who rejected accusations of election fraud as sour grapes from his opponents, said his party had yet to decide how to change the constitution. Asked when he might retire, Mugabe, 81, replied, "When I'm a century old."