Zambia poll goes to the wire

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The Independent Online

Zambia's closest presidential election since independence 37 years ago appeared to have narrowed to two candidates yesterday. Levy Mwanawasa, of the ruling party, had a slight advantage over Anderson Mazoka, who is backed by the business élite.

However, given that Thursday's poll covered the presidency, parliament and local councils, coalitions were likely to emerge from among the 11 contenders and parties.

State radio said that Mr Mwanawasa – the heir chosen by the President, Frederick Chiluba, who is leaving office – had won the key Copperbelt province and had also taken a majority in Northern and Luapula provinces. Mr Mazoka, of the United Party for National Development, was likely to win Southern, Western and Northwestern provinces, it said.

Another favourite, Brigadier General Christon Tembo, 57, was out of the running after a poor showing – surprising given the reputed resources of his Forum For Democracy and Development, created by members of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy in protest at a brief attempt by Mr Chiluba to defy the constitution and seek a third term.

If Mr Mwanawasa, 53, wins the presidency and a majority in parliament, it will be business as usual. But a victory for Mr Mazoka, 56, a former head of the mining giant Anglo-American, could herald prosecutions of allegedly corrupt officials linked to the ruling party including, perhaps, Mr Chiluba.

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