|OPPOSITION CLAIMS VICTORY AS OFFICIAL RESULTS REMAIN UNCLEAR
Updated: 28 December 2001
by By Kondwani Chirambo and Hugh McCullum in Lusaka
Anxiety gripped Zambians as on-going delays in announcing the official election results increased tensions following a peaceful electoral process, with a leading opposition leader declaring himself winner of the closely contested presidential poll.
Anderson Mazoka, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND) told a press conference that results computed by his party agents who were present during verification processes indicated that his party had so far taken 44 seats, largely in Central, Lusaka, Southern, Western and parts of North-western provinces. He had also won the presidential elections, he claimed.
Official results have only been announced in four provinces in the northern zones of the country, won mostly by the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) and its candidate Levy Mwanawasa.
However, verified results independently obtained by SARDC from 48 constituencies had Mazoka narrowly leading with 189,134 votes to Mwanawasa's 188,975, by mid-day Saturday. There are 150 elective seats in the National Assembly.
Opposition parties accuse the government of deliberately blacking-out the nation on the remaining results because they allegedly favour the opposition, particularly UPND.
"It has become abundantly clear that the ruling party is engaged in massive vote rigging of elections results. This is dangerous because the country will not accept an MMD victory. Our information, even from government sources, indicate categorically that I have won the presidency and the UPND is doing very well in both parliamentary and local government elections," Mazoka said.
However the SADC Parliamentary Forum Observer Mission and the European Union (EU) both said they had seen no evidence of rigging, although the elections were poorly organized.
"The election process was peaceful although cumbersome. We saw no signs of rigging because in all stations there were party agents, monitors and observers. The counting process was okay. I cannot understand at what point rigging could have occurred", said head of the SADC-PF Mission Ms, Nthloi Motsamai of Lesotho.
Opposition parties claim the rigging took place on recounts, processes that have not been monitored by international observers. Emmie Siwale, secretary-general of the Heritage Party (HP) whose presidential candidate retired brigadier-general Godfrey Miyanda has been running a distant third overall, also supported the UPND claim of vote rigging.
Mazoka urged the Electoral Commission Chair Judge Bobby Bwalya to declare the results and avoid a serious backlash from Zambians. The national broadcaster ZNBC (Zambia National Broadcasting Corp.) ceased results announcements earlier today after giving results from only four provinces.
"It (ECZ) is now engaged in giving selective results only from areas where presidential candidate Levy Mwanawasa is claimed to be doing well and not in other areas where Mazoka is beating him clean like Northwestern, Western, Southern, Central and Lusaka provinces. There is a news black-out through ZNBC about results from these areas. This is deliberate in order to condition the minds of the people to fraudulent MMD victory," the UPND leader alleged.
Electoral Commission officials said they were overwhelmed by the large turn-out of voters estimated to reach up to two million--the largest vote in 10 years of multi-party elections. The process of voting went on until today while counting and recounting was done to verify the results of a close-run poll.
The inauguration of the new president, scheduled for today, has been put off to Wednesday, a decision Mazoka strongly protested. Observers and monitors predict the final results may take until Monday to be finalized. (SARDC).
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