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Zimbabwe's opposition hopeful

Despite losing previous elections that they say were rigged, MDC members say they can win Thursday's vote.

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A skinny political activist here named Cosmas Ndira was already celebrating his party's victory in Thursday's parliamentary elections - and Zimbabweans hadn't even started voting. His optimism Wednesday was even more surprising because his party is opposing President Robert Mugabe, known for his 25-year iron grip over this Southern African nation.

Mr. Ndira isn't the only one. Supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change now openly flash their party's salute in many places across the country. And yellow MDC T-shirts abound. MDC candidates have held hundreds of public rallies - a first - and have even had some access to state-controlled media. It's all part of an election campaign that has been relatively calm - despite previous years marred by political oppression, including beatings, and even murders. Ndira himself has been been arrested 19 times and was once beaten so badly he nearly lost his arm.

The MDC has been here before. Three years ago they were poised to sweep Mr. Mugabe out of office, only to have their hopes dashed by election results that they say were rigged. Even now, it's clear the octogenarian president won't go quietly: Some traditional ruling-party tactics have appeared in recent days.

But opposition members and diplomats are hopeful that, win or lose, the election will hasten the end of the Mugabe regime. So for now, "There's jubilation everywhere," Ndira says.

Voters Thursday will choose 120 members of Zimbabwe's 150-seat parliament. Mugabe appoints the remaining 30 seats. The MDC won 57 seats in 2000.

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