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Zambian opposition head takes lead in poll

September 13, 2017 5:19 AM
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Lusaka - Opposition leader Anderson Mazoka was ahead in Zambia's close-fought presidential election latest results showed on Saturday, shortly after he claimed the government was trying to cheat him of victory.

Mazoka, a wealthy businessman and former executive with Anglo American Plc, said European Union observers had indicated he was ahead in the election and warned of "chaos" if the Electoral Commission did not declare him winner.

Latest results from the Electoral Commission, for 52 of 150 constituencies, gave Mazoka, of the United Party for National Development (UPND), 198,412 votes against 194,838 for ruling party candidate Levy Mwanawasa, President Frederick Chiluba's chosen heir.

Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) leader Christon Tembo, the only other person deemed to have a realistic chance, moved to third place with 94,057 votes. Godfrey Miyanda of the Heritage Party was in fourth place with 92,462 votes.

Commission spokesperson Priscilla Isaac urged Mazoka to wait for the official results later on Saturday or Sunday.

"The (ruling) Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) are designing chaos. I will not accept an election fraud and the people of Zambia will not accept it," he told an earlier news conference.

"The results which we have from our agents and monitors show that I have won. I urge the Electoral Commission to declare me the winner," Mazoka said.

Mazoka said EU observers had given him a 36 percent victory against Mwanawasa's 23 percent. He said the Electoral Commission and Zambia's security forces must prevail upon the government "to uphold the constitution".

Michael Meadowcroft, head of the EU electoral team, said his team's tabulation indicated Mazoka had 35.5 percent of the vote, against nearly 27 percent given by the Electoral Commission. Mwanawasa had 22 percent against 27 percent listed by the Commission.

"These projections are really from cast ballots counted and they are not scientific in any way," Meadowcroft said.

But Mazoka was adamant: "They are attempting to rig the election, but I would like to warn the MMD that any attempt to change the results will lead to terrible instability and chaos in this country."

Zambians went to the polls on Thursday to choose between 11 candidates vying for the presidency in the copper-mining African state.

The first official results were released some 20 hours after vote counting began in Zambia, which suffers from high rates of poverty, unemployment and HIV/AIDS.

No official results from simultaneous parliamentary elections have yet been released, but many analysts are forecasting the new president will have to work with the country's first coalition government.

Thursday's vote was a logistical nightmare at many polling stations, where people waited up to 10 hours to cast their ballots. Turnout was estimated at a higher than expected 80 percent of the 2.6 million registered voters.

A government statement said the new president would be sworn in on Wednesday instead of Sunday as initially planned.

"We are not conceding because there are widespread reports of irregularities countrywide," said FDD vice-president Edith Nawakwi.

The slow vote-counting increased suspense around the country, with many Zambians glued to radios and televisions for the results of the tightest presidential and parliamentary elections since independence from Britain in 1964.

Under Zambia's first-past-the-post system, the winner needs only one more vote than his closest rival.

Many analysts say no party will win a majority of the 150 elected seats in parliament, setting the stage for Zambia's first coalition government.

The landlocked country shares borders with eight states, among them war-ravaged Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo and crisis-ridden Zimbabwe.

The long rule of founding father Kenneth Kaunda ended with food riots and an election which ushered in Chiluba in 1991.


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