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No Winner So Far in Zambia Election - 2001-12-28

Results are trickling in from Zambia's general election, but it is still not clear who the next president will be.

Election officials say an unprecedented high turnout has delayed counting of the ballots.

Many people report spending six or seven hours in line. Polling stations stayed open all night in many places, and voting continued through the next day in parts of Lusaka.

Election officers around the country are still counting the ballots and tabulating the results.

Even members of the Electoral Commission cannot predict when official results will be in, or who will win the presidency. One election official admitted to VOA that the national radio station had more information about who was leading than she did.

Outside a vote counting center in Lusaka, election officials, police officers and party leaders gathered in the parking lot to listen to the latest news.

Early returns from Lusaka reveal a strong showing by opposition presidential candidate Anderson Mazoka of the United Party for National Development. But it is still too soon to say whether he will defeat ruling party contender Levy Mwanawasa. Two more candidates, Christon Tembo and Godfrey Miyanda, are also not out of the picture.

Election officials say turnout was nearly unprecedented - roughly 80 percent of the 2.6 million registered voters went to the polls. Officials say that is more than any election in Zambia's 10 years of multiparty politics.

Nimrod Siluyele ran a polling station in central Lusaka. He and his assistants brought the ballot boxes to the district head office around midday.

Mr. Siluyele said people were voting until after 1:00 a.m., and he was exhausted after staying up all night counting ballots. "None! I haven't slept a single minute up to now. Not a single minute! No," he said.

Polling assistant Mwendalubi Shambana says she is encouraged by the large number of voters who turned out at her polling station. "Yeah! It was exciting to see a lot Zambians turning up in numbers. That shows how much the Zambian people are really serious in wanting to choose who would be the right presidential candidate for them," she said.

Whoever wins will become only the third president in Zambia's 37 years of independence.

Dictator Kenneth Kaunda presided over a one-party state for 27 years before losing office in Zambia's first multiparty elections in 1991. Since then, President Frederick Chiluba has ruled the country nearly unopposed.

But he was constitutionally prohibited from running for a third term, and his handpicked successor, Mr. Mwanawasa, could bear the brunt of voter dissatisfaction with the Chiluba government.

Mr. Chiluba's party, the Movement for Multi Party Democracy, has also dominated parliament for 10 years. But the MMD seems sure to lose its overwhelming majority in the national assembly, and possibly its grip on the presidency.