Zambia opposition leader refuses to concede defeat

Zambian opposition leader Michael Sata on Tuesday refused to concede defeat in last week’s presidential election, saying the outcome was ”stolen” by ruling-party candidate Rupiah Banda.

Sata once again accused election authorities of rigging the vote, in an interview with the privately owned daily newspaper the Post.

”He is indecent because he stole my vote glaringly,” he said. ”The army commander was intimidating people. Banda announced the victory one month before … They knew they had fixed the election.”

Banda was sworn in as president on Sunday, just two hours after election officials declared him the winner with 40,09% of the vote to Sata’s 38,13%.

In his inaugural speech, Banda offered an olive branch to the opposition, asking them to work with his ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) after the election, which African observers declared free and fair.

But Sata (71) told the Post: ”The election was won through fraud, manipulation, intimidation … How can we work together?”

”I have not lost the election,” he added in a separate interview with South African public radio. ”Rupiah Banda has no vision. Rupiah Banda has no platform. The only platform Rupiah Banda is on is cheating.”

The October 30 election was called following the death of president Levy Mwanawasa in August. Banda will serve out the end of Mwanawasa’s term, until general elections in 2011.

Sata’s Patriotic Front on Monday wrote to the election commission seeking a recount in 78 of Zambia’s 150 constituencies, saying the tallies should be verified by independent monitors and party agents.

”We hope the recount and verification can be done soon,” party spokesperson Given Lubinda said. ”We merely want a recount, which will show that the results were not accurate.”

Political analysts said Banda’s narrow victory — in an election with only 45% voter turnout — highlighted public frustration with the MMD, which has run Zambia since 1991. — AFP



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