The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the [British] South Africa Company in 1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favored whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980. Robert MUGABE the nation's first prime minister has been the country's only ruler (as president since 1987) and has dominated the country's political system since independence. His chaotic land redistribution campaign which began in 2000 caused an exodus of white farmers crippled the economy and ushered in widespread shortages of basic commodities. Ignoring international condemnation MUGABE rigged the 2002 presidential election to ensure his reelection. The ruling ZANU-PF party used fraud and intimidation to win a two-thirds majority in the March 2005 parliamentary election allowing it to amend the constitution at will and recreate the Senate which had been abolished in the late 1980s. In April 2005 Harare embarked on Operation Restore Order ostensibly an urban rationalization program which resulted in the destruction of the homes or businesses of 700 000 mostly poor supporters of the opposition. President MUGABE in June 2007 instituted price controls on all basic commodities causing panic buying and leaving store shelves empty for months. General elections held in March 2008 contained irregularities but still amounted to a censure of the ZANU-PF-led government with significant gains in opposition seats in parliament. MDC opposition leader Morgan TSVANGIRAI won the presidential polls and may have won an out right majority but official results posted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Committee did not reflect this. In the lead up to a run-off election in late June 2008 considerable violence enacted against opposition party members led to the withdrawal of TSVANGIRAI from the ballot. Extensive evidence of vote tampering and ballot-box stuffing resulted in international condemnation of the process. Difficult negotiations over a power sharing agreement allowing MUGABE to remain as president and creating the new position of prime minister for TSVANGIRAI were finally settled in February 2009.
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