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By Ray Fleming

When Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to enter into a coalition with Robert Mugabe after elections four years ago it seemed that there was at last a reasonable chance that Zimbabwe would end one party rule and enter a period of internal co-operation and external support after years of brutal and corrupt rule by Mugabe. Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change had got quite close to Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in the election and it seemed likely that as prime minister he would be able to influence policy. But last Saturday's election showed that the four years had been wasted in any democratic sense.

Tsvangirai's vote had dropped to 34 percent while Mugabe's rose to 61 percent. In one area where four years ago Zanu-PF won only one seat out of 26 it now won 21.

At most of the earlier of the seven elections which Mugabe has won he relied on violence against the opposition to ensure his victory. This time he was more subtle and concentrated on the rigging of the electoral register in such a way that large numbers of Tsvangirai's supporters found themselves without a vote while Mugabe's often had two. Registration in areas favouring Tsvangirai was so slow that many of his supporters gave up; he has said he will not rejoin the coalition. So South Africa's government and many others have congratulated Mugabe. Nothing has changed.