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High Voter Turnout Delays Ballot Counting in Zambia Election - 2001-12-28

Results are trickling in from the general election in Zambia, but the final count may take longer than expected. The voter turnout was so heavy that many voting stations had to stay open long beyond the official closing time.

Election officials say a high turnout has delayed counting of the ballots. Polling stations stayed open all night in many places, and voting continued through the morning in parts of Lusaka.

Counting is underway, but it is still not clear when official results will be in. There are reports, however, of an extremely strong showing by opposition presidential candidate Anderson Mazoka of the United Party for National Development.

If he wins, he would become Zambia's third president in 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, Levy 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.

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.