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Vote counting begins in Zambia

09-21-2011 08:22 BJT

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Zambia: Election over; waiting now for the counting

Zambians voted on Tuesday in a closely contested election between President Rupiah Banda and opposition leader Michael Sata, who has been a critic of foreign investment in Africa's biggest copper producer, most notably from China.

Crowds of youths chanting "We want change, we want change" mobbed 74-year-old Sata as he visited a polling station in the capital, Lusaka, where long queues of people had to wait for hours for voting booths to open.

At one station, the frustration boiled over and the crowd went on the rampage, burning voting materials and damaging five vehicles. Police said four people were arrested.

Banda's Movement for Multi-Party Democracy, which has run the landlocked nation since the end of one-party rule in 1991, claims most of its support in the countryside where farmers have benefited from an agricultural subsidy scheme.

Sata's strength is in Lusaka and the northern Copper Belt, where many complain about meagre returns from more than five years of pacy economic growth based on a global commodity boom.

"I will vote for Sata because he's the only candidate who promises to address the issues facing the majority of Zambians," said Victor Mwanza, an unemployed 32-year-old.

Voting is due to end at 1600 GMT and the first results from urban areas are likely to arrive late in the evening.

Campaigning officially ended on Sunday for a 24-hour cooling off period after six weeks of mudslinging and rhetoric that sometimes touched on the growing clout of foreign mining firms in the $13 billion economy.

Banda, also 74 and widely known by his initials RB, cast his vote near his home town of Chipata, 600 km (400 miles) east of Lusaka, and urged Zambians to express their frustrations through the ballot box rather than on the streets.

"Voting is louder than words," he told reporters.

Police are out in force to prevent any major violence even though the southern African country of 13 million is not known for political unrest.

Its kwacha currency has risen more than 3 percent against the dollar in the last week, suggesting investors are confident there will be none of the post-poll fighting that has blighted recent African elections from Ivory Coast to Kenya.

An opinion poll published a week ago suggested Banda held a narrow lead over Sata, nicknamed King Cobra because of his vicious tongue, although a number of floating voters meant an upset was still possible.

Editor:James |Source: CNTV

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