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Opposition Leader Concedes Defeat in Zambian Election


Michael Sata, leader of Zambia's opposition Patriotic Front says the Independent Election Commission will declare incumbent President Levy Mwanawasa and the ruling party winners in the country's hotly contested tripartite election. VOA's Delia Robertson reports the vote counting has been marred by riots in some areas and the final result in imminent.

It became clear on Sunday that President Levy Mwanawasa had overtaken populist opposition leader Michael Sata in assuming a commanding lead in the presidential poll. A similar pattern emerged in the competition for seats in parliament with the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy, or MMD, also taking the lead over Sata's Patriotic Front.

As Mr. Mwanawasa and his party assumed the lead in the ongoing ballot count, rioting erupted in several townships around Lusaka and at the main vote counting station in the capital.

Despite a strong deployment of security forces at some trouble spots, rioting once again erupted in some areas Monday. Reports from the capital say there have been no deaths or serious injuries but that some people have suffered cuts and bruises. Some stores and other businesses were looted even though most were closed.

The violence erupted in poor areas where Sata's strong nationalist messages won widespread support. Voters who have not benefited from Zambia's recent economic gains enthusiastically embraced Sata's promises to prevent large-scale foreign, particularly Chinese, ownership in key areas as mining.

Sata accused President Mwanawasa and his party of stealing the election, but said that he does not intend to challenge the outcome; telling reporters in Lusaka that he does not have time to spend in court. He called on his supporters to show restraint.

Mr. Mwanawasa has also called for Zambians to remain peaceful and respect the outcome.

Meanwhile the Elections Institute of Southern Africa, or EISA, said in an interim report that the election itself was conducted in a manner that allowed Zambians to express their democratic choice. A final report will be issued once EISA has assessed the tabulation process.