Zambians are electing a new president Thursday to replace
late President Levy Mwanawasa, who won international praise for
prudent economic management policies and a crackdown on graft. The election,
which political observes believe will be close, pits acting President Rupiah
Banda of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) and main opposition
leader Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front (PF). But the latest poll conducted by the independent African market information
group Steadman seems to favor Sata with 46 percent, while Banda trails with 32
percent. The leader of the opposition United Party for
National Development (UPND), Hakainda Hichelema follows at a distant third, with
10 percent undecided.
capital, Lusaka, political analyst Fred Mtesa tells reporter Peter Clottey that
enthusiasm is generally high ahead of today's vote.
"People are generally very
excited and looking forward to voting following the mass rallies, which were
held yesterday in the capital city. All the candidates are upbeat with their
supporters, and people are generally expecting a favorable outcome for their
respective candidates," Mtesa noted.
He said main opposition
leader Michael Sata has energized his party base ahead of today's vote.
"I think what has excited
the people is that Mr. Sata is a politician that has been around for a long
time. He is a very seasoned campaigner and this time round, he has traversed
the length and breadth of Zambia making his message known to the electorate.
And because of his charisma, I think a lot of people are excited that if he
wins the election, we are bound to see change that would lead to the uplifting
of the standards of living," he said.
Mtesa said the incumbency of
the ruling MMD party could pose a significant challenge to the other
participating opposition parties.
"You cannot rule out the
ruling party, the MMD, because even though Mr. Banda is regarded as an outsider
coming from UNIP (United National Independence Party), he is a
candidate for the ruling party, which has a machinery throughout the country.
And therefore, they are expected to use the incumbent advantage to marshal the
necessary votes to win the election," Mtesa pointed.
He said Zambians seem to be
alert and vigilant to prevent possible fraud during and after today's vote.
"There has been talk of the
danger of rigging taking place, and they are about saying the country is on
alert looking out for any mischievous attempt to rig the election. But so far,
a number of accusations have been made and have turned out to be unfounded. And
therefore we all expect in the country that the elections would be conducted in
a free and fair manner," he said.
Mtesa said the chairperson
of the electoral commission is well respected across the political divide and
would do a good job.
"I would say that firstly,
the Electoral Commission of Zambia is headed by a highly respected judge,
Justice Florence Mumba. And she is respected on both sides of the political
spectrum, the ruling party as well as the opposition," Mtesa noted.
He said the electoral
commission seems to have improved upon the last election to make this election
"There has been a new
development, which basically has improved the counting process. It means that
the election agents of the various contestants would have to sign at the
polling station the results, and these are the results that would be
transmitted to the election center in Lusaka. So the process has improved in
terms of transparency," he said.
the army chief warned Wednesday that violence would not be tolerated, adding
that forces would be placed on high alert after voting ends today. This comes
after main opposition leader Sata alleged that rigging deprived him of victory
in the 2006 election he lost to Mwanawasa.
He is still accusing the
government and the ruling MMD of rigging this time around as well, and said he
will not accept the results if he loses. He is also calling on his supporters
from a recent rally to sleep outside polling booths if possible to limit the
chance of voter fraud in today's balloting.