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Zambia Opposition Leader Sata to Assumes Presidency Friday

Zambian President-Elect Michael "King Cobra" Sata (C), leaves on September 20, 2011 a polling station after inspecting voting procedures in Lusaka during national elections.

Zambia’s Chief Justice is scheduled to swear-in veteran opposition leader Michael Sata as the country’s new president Friday.

The electoral commission declared Mr. Sata, leader of the Patriotic Front (PF), winner of Tuesday’s presidential vote. He defeated incumbent President Rupiah Banda of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD).

Director of Elections Priscilla Isaacs said the electoral commission met its target of releasing the final results of the vote within the 48-hour deadline it set for itself.

“For President Sata, he got 1,150,000, 45 votes and the the runner-up, the former President Rupiah Banda, got 961,796, and then [Hakainde] Hichilema of UPND [United Party for National Development] got 489,944 votes,” Isaacs said.

She said Mr. Sata will be officially installed Friday.

“Mr. Michael Sata has already been declared president by the chief justice, who is also the returning officer for the presidential election, and the inauguration is going to take place today,” she said, “because our law provides that, once the results are declared for a presidential election, the presidential should be sworn-in no later than 24 hours after the declaration.”

Over five million Zambians registered to vote in the presidential, parliamentary and local elections.

Opposition parties expressed concern about delays in announcing the results. Some members contended any delay could be used to skew the vote in favor of Mr. Banda and his ruling MMD.

But, Isaacs said the electoral commission is vindicated by releasing the results in time. She added that her organization agreed with all stakeholders about the 48-hour deadline for releasing the results.

“We have done very well. The preliminary results that we have received, some of the international observers have commended us for conducting a credible and transparent election,” said Isaacs. “In terms of the results, we have given ourselves the 48 hour target in which to declare the election results, and we just about managed that target.”

Several international election monitoring agencies observed the election process.

Isaacs said there was need for the electoral commission to be thorough before releasing the final results of the vote.

“We used the electronic transmission and, of course, we need to verify to make sure that what we received is correct. So, the verification process is important because we don’t want to end up posting wrong results,” said Isaacs, “because, once you post wrong results, then you have to go through correcting them [and] that causes unnecessary suspicion. So, I feel that the commission is vindicated.”

Isaacs urged Zambians to repose confidence in the electoral process.

“We need to have more faith in our electoral process and the electoral commission. We’ve conducted an election which has been credible and transparent. We can proudly, openly and honestly say that we have done a good job and conducted a good election.”