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01 Nov 2008 15:20
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Saturday declared that Zambia’s presidential election was free and fair, despite claims of vote-rigging by the opposition.
“It is SADC’s overall view that the elections were conducted in an open, transparent and professional manner,” said John Kunene, who headed the SADC observer team to Zambia.
SADC also urged opposition candidates who have alleged vote fraud in Thursday’s poll to formally take up their complaints with authorities.
“No acts of intimidation were observed or reported countrywide,” Kunene said.
“SADC pleaded with the different political parties to follow the relevant institutions in Zambia to address any grievances,” he added.
The 15-nation bloc “commends the Electoral Commission of Zambia for the professional management of the recently concluded elections and commitment to produce credible and legitimate electoral results”, Kunene said.
Zambia’s opposition leader Michael Sata holds a slight lead over acting President Rupiah Banda in the election. Sata has accused authorities of planning to rig the vote, charges the election commission has denied.
Sata had 40,7% of the vote compared with 38,5% for Banda, with nearly three-quarters of the 150 constituencies reporting, giving Sata a lead of just 35 364 ballots, said Electoral Commission of Zambia chairperson Florence Mumba.
The Patriotic Front (PF) leader, who has frequently accused Banda’s ruling Multiparty Movement for Democracy (MMD) of election fraud, had seen his lead narrow sharply as results trickled in.
Sata stormed into the Lusaka vote centre after the latest release of results and accused the ruling party of being “a bunch of thieves”, saying the voter roll had been inflated in Banda’s favour in MMD strongholds.
“These are fake,” the fired-up leader told journalists.
“This election is not free and fair.”
When asked if he would accept loss, Sata replied: “How do I accept defeat when I have not been defeated?”
The MMD said Saturday the party was confident of victory over Sata.
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