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The BBC's John Simpson
"If they do badly they will come back for revenge"
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The BBC's Jim Fish
"Their power is no longer unchallenged"
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The BBC's Cathy Jenkins sees President Mugabe vote
"He patted the ballot box and said 'Ok, that's it'"
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Saturday, 24 June, 2000, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK
High turnout in Zimbabwe poll
Line of voters
Correspondents say Zimbabweans are keen to vote
A high turnout has been reported on the first day of voting in Zimbabwe's fiercely contested parliamentary elections.

The two days of voting follow a campaign marred by political violence and intimidation in which more than 30 people have been killed.

As polls closed, European Union election observers said there were a few cases of obstruction and intimidation at ballot stations on Saturday but voting had generally passed off peacefully.

President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party, which has dominated political life for two decades, is being challenged by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which was formed just seven months ago.

Election statistics
120 seats contested
5 million voters
5,000 polling stations
2 days of voting
Turnout so far: High

Tension over land distribution has increased in recent weeks and hundreds of white-owned farms have been occupied by squatters with President Mugabe's support.

Voting continued smoothly thoughout the day and our correspondent Cathy Jenkins said as dusk came the queue of people still waiting to vote in one suburb of Harare stretched half way across a playing field.

"Here, as at other polling stations across Zimbabwe, people had turned out in large numbers to cast their ballots and they said they were excited to do so," she said.

"Most, but not all, were reluctant to say which party they'd voted for."

The MDC has complained that many of its candidates and supporters have faced violence and intimidation during the campaign.

President Mugabe casts his vote
President Mugabe was among early voters at a Harare primary school

Casting his vote, the MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he was grateful so many people had turned out to vote - adding that tactics of intimidation had failed.

The country's last white prime minister, Ian Smith, was also among the early voters at the Belgravia Sports Club in Harare.

All I want to do is get rid of the present gangsters

Former prime minister Ian Smith

He told reporters: "All I want to do is get rid of the present gangsters.

"We have only got a weekend to go, and then we will know whether we have saved our country or not."

The election observers who have complained of being hindered are among only 2,000 who have been deployed, out of an original estimated complement of 16,000.

Local monitors who were accredited late on Friday say they were relieved to be present in the polling stations in larger numbers than expected.

Ian Smith with duty police officer at polling station
Ian Smith shares a joke as he votes in Harare

They have been sent out amid concerns that the election could be subject to widespread fraud.

The police, whose reputation was badly dented during the campaign, say they have deployed in substantial numbers and will deal swiftly and firmly with any trouble.

President Mugabe will be hoping that his party's traditional supporters in rural areas will vote in sufficient numbers to outweigh the opposition's advantage in towns and cities.

Morgan Tsvangirai is an ambitious frog ... as long as Morgan will be used by the British, he will be a frog

President Mugabe

Observers say the MDC has a realistic chance of winning a majority of the 120 parliamentary seats being contested.

But, as president, Mr Mugabe has a big advantage - he is allowed to pick another 30 MPs to make up the 150-seat parliament.

Click here for graphic of voting system

Currently, only three seats are held by opposition MPs.

Morgan and Susan Tsvangirai
Morgan Tsvangirai and wife Susan vote together in Buhera
Both President Mugabe and the MDC leader spent Friday making their final appeals to the electorate.

At least 20,000 people attended Mr Mugabe's last rally, as busloads of supporters were brought in to hear him accuse Mr Tsvangirai of being a stooge of the country's former colonial ruler, Britain. Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Mr Tsvangirai spent much of his last day of the campaign touring poorer parts of the capital, calling for a change of government.

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See also:

20 Jun 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe bars election monitors
20 Jun 00 | Africa
Zimbabweans feel 'let down'
16 Jun 00 | Africa
Opposition boost in Zimbabwe
17 Jun 00 | Africa
Turnout blow for Mugabe
18 Jun 00 | Africa
Harare rally boosts opposition
17 Jun 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The politics of fear
16 Jun 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe parties: Who's who?
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