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Opposition Leader Challenges Results of Zambian Election - 2002-01-16

Zambia's main opposition leader has challenged the results of the country's presidential elections in court. Anderson Mazoka has filed a formal petition with the Supreme Court.

Lawyers representing Anderson Mazoka filed papers Tuesday with the Supreme Court, asking it to overturn the results of Zambia's just-conducted presidential elections.

Mr. Mazoka leads the United Party for National Development. He narrowly lost the race for the presidency to the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy candidate and Zambia's new leader, Levy Mwanawasa.

Several opposition leaders have alleged widespread fraud and vote rigging by Mr. Mwanawasa's party in an effort to stay in power. But the new Zambian president denies there was vote rigging involved in his victory. He says he is the legitimately elected president of Zambia.

His spokesman has said the opposition parties were handicapped by their own fragmentation - votes were split among the 10 opposition candidates on the presidential ballot.

Independent election monitors and international observers say there were irregularities in the vote tabulation process. But they say the voting itself was transparent and peaceful.

The opposition parties had tried to stop Mr. Mwanawasa's inauguration before it happened, but that earlier court appeal failed. He was sworn in January 2. Violent protests rocked Lusaka and other Zambian cities the day before the ceremony.

Since then, the unrest has subsided. But the opposition parties are vowing to continue fighting the ruling party, both in front of the Supreme Court and in parliament, where they hold roughly half the seats.

Mr. Mazoka's spokesman Robby Makhai told VOA the party leaders are confident they have enough evidence to prove their case in court.

Meanwhile, on the same day the opposition lawyers filed their petition, police searched the opposition party's headquarters. They said they were looking for tear gas canisters.

Last week, authorities arrested five opposition supporters who allegedly tossed a tear gas canister into a busy supermarket in the capital.

The United Party for National Development spokesman has said the police are still holding three party members in connection with the incident. But he denies that the party had anything to do with planning the attack.

He says police found nothing in their search of the party headquarters. He called the raid part of a campaign of harassment and intimidation aimed at the opposition.