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Vol 42 No 24

Published 7th December 2001


Too close to call

The gap between the leading presidential contenders is narrowing fast in this landmark election

It looks like Zambia's closest election ever, as eleven runners sprint, hobble and lurch towards the finish of the first-past-the-post contest on 27 December. The real prize is the presidency, with its supreme power, and its ability to assemble a coalition in parliament, where no party is likely to win a majority (AC Vol 42 No 21). The winner could obtain fewer than a third of the votes cast.Outgoing President Frederick Chiluba faces many of the same allegations as his neighbour in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe - assassination of opponents and grand corruption. Yet Chiluba has confronted only his domestic opponents, winning cautious approval from Western governments by his tough economic reforms and his (belated) sale of state interests in the copper mines. Far from attacking white farmers, Chiluba has invited white Zimbabweans to move north to Zambia. In the short term, Zambia has benefited financially from the chaos in Zimbabwe (AC Vol 42 No 23). His domestic opponents insist that Chiluba cannot allow his Movement for Multi-party Democracy to lose, for fear of prosecution on charges of corruption and human rights abuses. So much mud has been thrown at Chiluba, especially by former close associates, that the election is as much about his personality as about policies. The governing MMD's candidate, picked by Chiluba, is Levy Mwanawasa. The other front-runners are Anderson Mazoka of the United Party for National Development and General Christon Tembo of the Forum for Democracy and Development.

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