Magazine article New African

Zambia: No Winners, No Losers; after the "Difficult" Election in September, President Mwanawasa Has Taken the Reconciliation Route. Austin Mbewe Reports from Lusaka

Magazine article New African

Zambia: No Winners, No Losers; after the "Difficult" Election in September, President Mwanawasa Has Taken the Reconciliation Route. Austin Mbewe Reports from Lusaka

Article excerpt

"In this election, there were no winners or losers. This is not the time to settle scores. Let us all be united to build Zambia," said President Levy Mwanawasa in his inauguration speech which was largely reconciliatory, and necessarily so for a country still raw from an election drenched in ethnic divisions and personalities.

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Although five candidates put their names on the ballot paper (as opposed to 11 in 2001), it was a three-man race involving Levy Mwanawasa of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front (PF) and Hakainde Hichilema of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA). The other two--former vice-president and retired Brigadier-General Godfrey Miyanda of the Heritage Party, and the Lusaka businessman Ken Ngondo and his All People's Congress-were written off from start.

Candidates dismissed opinion polls as unreliable and demanded the people's verdict--and it came. Mwanawasa got 43% of the vote, while his closest challenger Sata got 29%. Hichilema was third with 25% while Miyanda and Ngondo got 1.57% and 0.76%, respectively.

There were 3.9 million registered voters, out of whom 2.7 million cast their ballots, representing a 70% turnout, according to the Electoral Commission.

Urban voters rejected Mwanawasa and his MMD as they overwhelmingly balloted for the opposition. So did the south, a stronghold of the UDA. However, Mwanawasa made off with the bulk of rural votes where the opposition had less appeal. Of the 150 legislative seats, the ruling MMD got 72, as the combined opposition garnered 76. Elections for two seats were postponed as some candidates died before polling day. Mwanawasa has already increased his tally by utilising the constitutional provision allowing him to nominate eight MPs.

The elections were fiercely contested and eagerly watched by several international observers that dispersed the country. They generally described them as "free and fair" while highlighting several shortfalls.

For Mwanawasa, 58, it was about incumbency. His re-election drive was based on the economic gains that his government had scored which included debt cancellation, sustained economic growth, reduced inflation and increased investor confidence. He warned that the gains could be reversed if voters showed him the exit. …

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