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1977: Smith keeps power in Rhodesia
Ian Smith's ruling Rhodesian Front has won an overwhelming victory in the country's general election.

The party made a clean sweep of all the 50 seats reserved for whites in the 66-seat parliament.

The result represents a decisive defeat for 12 right-wingers who split from Mr Smith's party because of his plans for constitutional change.

Mr Smith advocates a phased introduction to black-majority rule.

Last year he accepted a US plan to introduce black rule to Rhodesia within two years.

However, the newly-formed Rhodesian Action Party campaigned on an anti-majority rule platform.

Their defeat in all the seats they contested is seen as strengthening Mr Smith's position.

Ideas being proposed by Britain and America which call for a swift transition to black rule were backed by the left-of-centre National Unifying Force.

Nobody but a fool would disregard the kind of result we witnessed today
Ian Smith
At the polls their candidates were also trounced by the Rhodesian Front.

Speaking after the election count, Mr Smith told journalists he believed the scale of his victory would give him more leverage to produce an internal settlement.

"I am satisfied it has strengthened my hand tremendously. Nobody but a fool would disregard the kind of result we witnessed today," Mr Smith said.

But the prime minister promised to give the Anglo-American proposals careful consideration.

Mr Smith said: "No matter how unpalatable at first sight, we will give them very careful thorough consideration and investigation before attempting to pass judgement."

In spite of Mr Smith's preference for a phased handover to black rule, Wednesday's election is widely expected to be the last time a white-majority parliament will be returned in Rhodesia.

Under the current voting system, the country's 85,000 white voters elect 50 white MPs.

However, just eight black MPs are elected to represent the country's 6m black people - because only 7,000 of them are eligible to vote.

Ian Smith has been Rhodesia's prime minister since 1964.

He unilaterally declared independence from Britain the following year.

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Ian Smith
Mr Smith has accepted a US plan for eventual black rule

In Context
All-party talks in London in 1979 resulted in a peace agreement.

In 1980 Robert Mugabe and his Zanu party were elected to form the county's first black government.

Rhodesia became Zimbabwe on 18 April 1980 and its independence was internationally recognised.

The year 2000 saw the start of a violent campaign supported by President Mugabe to seize white-owned farms and hand them over to black farmers.

Several white farmers and hundreds of their black workers were killed during the seizures.

In 2002 the European Union imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe and it was suspended from the Commonwealth.

Mr Mugabe's re-election in the same year was condemned as seriously flawed by international observers.

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