LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Zimbabwes prospects appeared promising in 1980, as it gained independence after a long liberation war. Rising inflation and unemployment bred discontent in the 1990s and led in 1999 to the formation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change MDC. The new party surprised many with its initial success, campaigning against a 2000 referendum that would have legalized the presidents continued rule, made government officials immune from prosecution, and allowed the uncompensated seizure of white-owned land for redistribution to black farmers. The referendum failed, and the MDC won nearly half the seats in the 2000 parliamentary election. The ruling party has since taken numerous, often undemocratic actions to bolster its power. President Robert Mugabes government has been seen as autocratic and repressive by its critics, and its human rights record is poor. The regime has suppressed freedom of speech and assembly, and many contend that the government has restricted access to food, already scarce, in opposition areas. The MDC, divided over how to respond, split into two factions in 2005, hampering its ability to challenge the ruling party. Reports of political violence rose sharply after Zimbabwes March 29, 2008 elections, when, for the first time since independence, the ruling party lost its majority in the National Assembly. Mugabe has repeatedly extended his rule and his re-election as president in the June 2008 runoff election has been viewed as illegitimate by the United States and the United Nations Secretary-General, among others. On September 15, 2008, after several weeks of negotiations in South Africa, Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing arrangement aimed at resolving the political standoff. As part of the deal, Tsvangirai will become Prime Minister, and cabinet positions will be divided among the parties.
- Government and Political Science