- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) Stacks of locked ballot boxes were sealed with red wax and piled in the corner of an auditorium yesterday as Zambians waited for election results that could bring the first coalition government in the country's history.
Although early returns gave ruling party candidate Levy Mwanawasa a slight lead in the contentious election, officials cautioned that the race was too close to call.
Election officials said they were overwhelmed by a massive voter turnout some 80 percent of 2.6 million registered voters cast ballots and it was not clear when official results would be available.
Voters waited up to 10 hours in lines that wrapped around city blocks and stretched across fields to cast ballots in Thursday's elections for the presidency, parliament and local councils. In some areas, voting went on through the night and as late as yesterday afternoon.
"It was hectic," said Siluyele Nimrod, who headed a polling station in the capital, Lusaka, and spent a sleepless night counting votes. "The response was overwhelming."
Election commission officials said that with 50 percent of the vote counted in five of the country's nine provinces, Mr. Mwanawasa, the designated heir to outgoing President Frederick Chiluba and his Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), had a slight lead over businessman Anderson Mazoka of the opposition United Party for Development.
A third major candidate, Christon Tembo, was reportedly trailing farther behind.
Supporters of Mr. Tembo's Forum for Democracy and Development expressed shock at preliminary results reported on state radio, which shut their man, a tough-talking former army commander, out of the race.
Zambians, who have known only two leaders in their nation's 37-year history, chose from 11 candidates for president and among 17 political parties for parliament.
This splintered mix could lead to Zambia's first coalition government, analysts say.
It appears "no party will be singularly dominant in parliament, and the possibility the president will not have a majority in parliament seems very likely," said David Carroll, associate director of the Atlanta-based Carter Center for Democracy, which sent a team of observers to the election.
At an outdoor restaurant serving steaming plates of traditional meat stew, young office workers discussed the anxious wait for election results.
"People are frustrated both that it took so long to vote and that results are slow in coming," said Sampla Mukuka, 27.
President Chiluba has been accused of deliberately timing the election two days after Christmas and in the middle of the rainy season to make victory easier for Mr. Mwanawasa.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide