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HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Zimbabwe's ruling party won a sweeping victory in a parliamentary by-election, but the opposition said Monday that the vote was rigged and swayed by violence and intimidation.

The vote was for a parliamentary seat for a western district, held by opposition lawmaker George Ndlovu until his death in August.

Ruling party officials said their victory in the Insiza district and the possibility that they would win a seat left vacant after the recent death in a jail cell of an opposition lawmaker could be important steps toward reducing the opposition's power in parliament.

Zimbabwe has been wracked by more than two years of political and economic turmoil widely blamed on the ruling party. Election observers accused the increasingly unpopular President Robert Mugabe of rigging March presidential elections to extend his 22-year rule.

In the weekend by-election, Mugabe's ZANU-PF party won 12,115 votes in Insiza district, in the western Matabeleland province 220 miles from Harare, over the opposition's 5,102 votes, state radio reported.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change said the poll result ``represents a temporary victory of thuggery and evil.''

``This was never an election in the first place. We participated under protest following open and flagrant undermining of the Electoral Act,'' said opposition spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi.

Nyathi said there was also violence against opposition supporters and harassment of its polling agents and officials.

There was no immediate comment from the ruling party.

In a separate incident Monday, Nyathi said ruling party militants, wearing the green uniforms of its youth wing, attacked opposition offices in the western provincial capital of Bulawayo. Stones were hurled through windows and five vehicles were damaged outside. Police had no immediate comment.

The election in Insiza was marred both by violence against voters and abuse of food relief during a hunger crisis, opposition officials said.

The World Food Program said earlier this month it had suspended relief efforts indefinitely in the district after ruling party activists threatened aid workers and seized donated grain.

Mugabe's government has been accused of using food as a political weapon. Human rights groups said the government has been diverting food relief from some opposition strongholds.

An estimated 6.7 million Zimbabweans _ more than half the population _ are in danger of starvation in the coming months.