Ruling party wins Zambia presidential race
AFP - Monday, November 3
LUSAKA (AFP) - - Rupiah Banda was sworn in as Zambia's fourth president Sunday after a narrow election win over opposition leader Michael Sata, whose supporters rioted during the night over alleged vote fraud.
After taking his oath, Banda vowed to fight poverty and to maintain the policies of president Levy Mwanawasa, who died in August following a stroke.
He also reached out to the opposition, asking them to "put aside petty squabbles."
"It is not my intention to govern a divided nation," he said. "This election will not be allowed to divide us."
Banda was sworn in just two hours after election officials declared him the winner with 40.09 percent of the vote to Sata's 38.13 percent. He will now serve out the end of Mwanawasa's term in 2011.
Sata has not made any public comments since Banda's victory, but earlier he had accused election officials of rigging the vote in favour of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) and warned that he would not accept defeat.
The election commission has denied his charges, and African observers have declared the vote free and fair.
His posturing heightened tensions in Lusaka, where scores of Sata's supporters rioted in a crowded Lusaka slum late Saturday, setting fire to market stalls and throwing stones in the streets, witnesses said.
Riot police fired tear gas at the Patriotic Front (PF) supporters, who quickly dispersed, police spokesman Benny Kapeso told AFP.
"We intervened quickly and managed to bring the situation to normal," he said.
Sata's supporters had rioted for days after his 2006 loss to Mwanawasa, and police and soldiers have been on high alert for days. Police beefed up patrols in key parts of the capital on Sunday.
Despite the tensions surrounding the race, turnout was low at 45 percent, said Electoral Commission of Zambia chairwoman Florence Mumba.
Sata, 71, won strong support in Lusaka and in the Copperbelt, which host most of Zambia's jobs in the key mining industry, where many were drawn to his promises of better jobs and housing.
Sata had also vowed to force foreign companies to hand 25 percent stakes to local investors, and is an open admirer of neighbouring Zimbabwe's controversial President Robert Mugabe.
But the results showed Sata -- who was in his third presidential bid -- had made inroads in rural areas that had previously supported the ruling party.
Rural Zambia has largely been left out of Zambia's recent economic gains.
Under Mwanawasa, Zambia posted average economic growth of 4.9 percent over the last seven years, due largely to the global commodities boom which sent prices soaring for copper, the country's main export.
But nearly 64 percent of the country's 11.7 million people are still living in poverty, and 51 percent are considered to be in extreme poverty, surviving on less than one dollar a day.
Economic gains have benefitted urban areas, where poverty has dropped by 30 percent, according to the World Bank. But rural areas have actually seen an increase in poverty.
Banda, a 71-year-old Western-educated former diplomat, had campaigned on promises to maintain Mwanawasa's economic policies.
He also reached out to poor farmers, slashing the price of fertiliser by 75 percent in the week before the October 30 election.
Banda has pledged stability, but faces tough social challenges in a country where more than one million people live with the AIDS virus.
Zambia's economic outlook is also darkening as copper prices tumbled by 50 percent from their peak in July, driven down by weakening demand due to the global financial crisis.
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