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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
Zimbabwe elections: John Simpson answers your questions

In Zimbabwe the ruling Zanu-PF party held on to power following the country's general election at the week-end. But the opposition Movement for Democratic Change made important gains, capturing almost half of the directly elected seats.

The elections were conducted against a backdrop of violence and criticism by European Union observers that the whole process has been far from free and fair.

So what's the outlook for the people of Zimbabwe now? The BBC's World Editor John Simpson is in the country following events and he answered some of your questions in a live video forum from Harare.

To watch select the link below:

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David Bates, New Zealand / UK: The loss by Morgan Tsvangirai seems to me a little suspicious. Any indication of foul play there?

John Simpson: I don't think that there was ever much chance that Mr Tsvangirai was ever going to win that seat. It's in the heart of the rural area where he came from and he regarded it as a matter of honour to stand there rather than in an urban constituency. However, I don't think that he minds too much, as he has set his sights on the presidency in two years time.

Jerry Maguire, UK: Mr Mugabe is described by Mr Mandela as a "strategic thinker". How do you see him handling the aftermath of the elections?

John Simpson: There are two theories about this. His own people have been saying that, of course, he will take account of the popular vote and work with the opposition. However, he's a hard man and he'll continue driving along in the direction that he's been taking, maybe to safeguard his position with Zanu-PF. At the moment, we simply don't know and haven't heard anything from Mr Mugabe yet.

Stephen: Can the election results help to promote freedom of speech in Zimbabwe?

John Simpson: There's a lot of freedom of speech in Zimbabwe already. There's a free press, even if it is under pressure. The election has taught people that they can speak out and not necessarily suffer for it.

Tessa Wilson, Zimbabwe: Will the MDC elected candidates and Morgan Tsvangirai be able to operate freely, or will we see continued intimidation and violence from the ruling party?

John Simpson: The MPs should be moderately free but I think that there will continue to be intimidation in the rural areas until the local and presidential elections take place.

Andy Lloyd, South Africa: After their strong showing in the elections, does the MDC have enough clout to mount an investigation into some of the unconstitutional things that Mugabe is alleged to have done over the last few years?

John Simpson: I don't think that the MDC want to do that but they would like to offer Mr Mugabe an easy way out of power. They don't want to threaten him with all sorts of court proceedings and investigations because that might make him stay in power longer than they want him to.

Brian Gunnip, Ireland: Does the MDC have a realistic chance of forcing Mugabe to resign?

John Simpson: I don't think that's their intention. I think that the MDC wants to allow this present government to continue to choose its own ministers, not MDC ministers and struggle on for the next two years. The party would then aim to win the presidential election.

Shon, UK: Do you think President Mugabe is going to consider including the opposition in his government given their strong showing in the election?

John Simpson: I have been talking to some of his leading people today and they don't expect this to happen. The MDC wants to let the Zanu-PF government dig itself deeper and deeper into trouble and not help it out.

Anthony Taylor, Japan: Do you think the violence will escalate now the election is over and Zanu-PF has lost so many seats?

John Simpson: I feel that we need to put this question of violence into some kind of context. 32, maybe 35 people have been killed in this country since February. It is terrible for the families concerned but compared to political violence in other countries, the figures are not that great. I doubt that it will continue on any kind of high scale after the election as I believe that it was the intention of Zanu-PF to create tension in order to win the election.

Charles Waterbury, USA: What is the chance of a ZANU-PF split after the poor showing in the elections? Is Mugabe's leadership in question?

John Simpson: I suppose that if President Mugabe shows signs of not taking any notice of the popular will, there may be some members of Zanu-PF who break away from the party. However, I don't think that we're looking at a split in the short term, anyway.

Paul Malan, UK: Considering the great importance of agriculture in the country and the fact that most people interviewed have acknowledged the need for land reform, what is the opposition's policy on land reform?

John Simpson: The MDC wants land reform and greater ownership of land by black people. The major difference between it and the government is that it wants this to be done legally and for the greater good of the country. I think that the party sees an advantage in having a number of white farmers still working in the country because it's good for jobs and good for efficiency.

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