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MASVINGO, Zimbabwe — Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has been forced out but he has hardly faded away. Ahead of this month’s historic election, dozens of people in T-shirts with his image danced to antigovernment songs while vowing revenge.

The 94-year-old Mugabe, who led this southern African nation through 37 turbulent years before his dramatic, military-backed resignation in November, has emerged as a player ahead of the July 30 vote — on the side of the opposition.

In the largely rural province of Masvingo, anger over Mugabe’s removal has been channeled into supporting candidates who challenge the ruling ZANU-PF party that he long controlled.

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‘‘They removed Comrade Mugabe using military force. We should show them that the ballot box is supreme to the gun,’’ thundered Phionah Riekert, a 31-year-old loyalist of Mugabe and his wife, Grace. Youths and elderly women punctuated her campaign speech with song, dance, and the beating of drums.

Riekert seeks a parliamentary seat as a candidate with the National Patriotic Front, which was formed with Mugabe’s backing in March by members of a youthful faction loyal to him called the G-40. They had been purged from the government and ruling party by the military-backed administration of the new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The G-40 has been suspected in the grenade attack last month at a campaign rally that killed two aides while the 75-year-old Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe deputy, was just ‘‘inches’’ away.

The National Patriotic Front has joined an opposition coalition backing the top challenger to Mnangagwa, 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa of the main opposition MDC party, while fielding close to 100 candidates in 210 constituencies countrywide.

The margin between Mnangagwa and Chamisa has narrowed to just 3 percentage points, the Afrobarometer research group said Friday after sampling 2,400 voters across the country between June 25 and July 6.

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Although Mugabe has not addressed any political rallies, he remains a weighty presence in places like Masvingo, where support has swung between the ruling party and the opposition in past elections.

‘‘G-40 was influential in this province during Mugabe’s time. They have been regrouping, they have the capacity to cause quite an impact,’’ said Godfrey Mtimba, a journalist who has covered Masvingo for a decade.

Some residents, however, said they remain fond of Mugabe but will vote for Mnangagwa.

Associated Press