Zambia goes to polls

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pretoria - Zambia kicked off its tripartite elections today, with millions of voters expected to turn out during the 12-hour voting period. 

The tripartite elections, the sixth in Zambia since the introduction of multiparty politics in 1991, are meant to choose a president, law-makers and local government leaders.

Ten presidential candidates are standing in this year's elections - the highest number of presidential candidates since the introduction of multiparty politics, but the race is mainly among three presidential candidates.

Incumbent Rupiah Banda, who is standing on the governing party ticket - the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) - is seeking a full five-year term. He became president after winning elections in 2008 necessitated by the death of Levy Mwanawasa. Various opinion polls have given him an edge over his closest competitors.

Banda, however, faces a stiff challenge from the country's main opposition leader, Michael Sata, of the Patriotic Front (PF), while the second main opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema, of the United Party for National Development (UPND) cannot be written off completely.

According to analysts, Hichilema will play a significant role in dividing votes for the two major contenders in areas where he is strong, such as southern, western, north-western and central parts of Zambia.

The three main contenders have been on a campaign trail in all the country's nine provinces since the launch of the campaigning period on July 29. On Saturday, Banda held his last rally in Lusaka, where he told thousands of supporters that he should be re-elected based on what he has done in the three years he has been in office.

Banda's countrywide campaigns have mainly centered on his seven-point plan, which includes enhancing food security through increased agricultural production, better schools for all Zambians, better health services, more jobs, quality infrastructure, equality of opportunity for all Zambians, and sustaining and strengthening democratic governance.

Sata - commonly known as an action man - has centered his campaigns on mainly the unemployed youths in urban areas whom he is promised "more money" in his campaign trails.

The Patriotic Front leader, who has participated in elections since 2001, has won the hearts of urban voters and is this time promising to bring development within 90 days of winning the elections. The veteran politician, 72, seems to be basking in confidence but has of late been complaining of the elections having already been rigged.

On the other hand, Hichilema's campaign has been centered on "real change", with his arguments being that the two contenders have been in government since independence in 1964 and that it was time they rested.

The wealthy businessman, who has participated in elections since 2006, has repeatedly said he will take care of the two old politicians if he wins the elections and has also promised to improve agriculture, create jobs and improve social sectors.

The race for the 150-seat National Assembly has turned to be interesting also. The most interesting feature for parliamentary candidates is that independent candidates will be a major force. There are 139 independent candidates all over the country. The proliferation of independent candidates is because those who were not adopted by their parties decided to go it alone.

However, the electorate will have a larger say in who wins the elections. There are currently 5.2 million registered voters and analysts have predicted that turn out could be over 75%. - BuaNews-Xinhua 

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