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Zambians Await Election Results as Opposition Leader Takes Lead

Vote counting continues in Zambia from Tuesday's general elections. Partial results show an early lead by main challenger Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front party. He has 42 percent of the vote compared to 35 percent for President Rupiah Banda of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy and 18 percent for a candidate of the UPND party.

According to the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), the results are based on a tally of 33 of the country’s 150 constituencies.

“I am not surprised by [Sata’s] early lead since he is one of the opposition leaders that enjoy massive support,” said Zambian freelance journalist Daniel Tonga.

He said although Sata is leading in many constituencies where his party is strong, it is too early to predict who will win the election, because in the last election the opposition was ahead in early results but eventually lost.

Tonga said results are trickling in and final results may not be known until late Thursday. “The whole process has been marred by logistical problems; even voting materials were not delivered on time in some areas,” he said.

He described the situation in the capital, Lusaka, as calm after yesterday’s poll-related disturbances, which led to 19 arrests. “People have decided to wait at home for the official results. There is a heavy presence of police in the city.”

There were other people arrested in the city of Ndola for election-related violence, he said, and “they were charged today for ‘acts likely to breach the peace of a nation.’”

Earlier President Banda had appealed to Zambians to avoid premature celebrations and wait for official results to be announced by the ECZ. The commission, on its part, has assured that it will publish collated results within 48 hours and people must remain patient until it makes the results official.