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March 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 3)
In Zambia, the
transition from a decade of single-party rule is proving thorny.
Losers in the Dec. 27 presidential election have mounted court
challenges to President Levy Mwanawasas razor-thin victory.
Assuming the court maneuvers fail (many observers believe they
will), Mwanawasa will be obliged to work with a Parliament dominated
by the opposition, albeit fragmented among five parties.
demanding Zambia's Supreme Court call for new elections
clamor for a view of their leader, Jan. 1, 2002. More
than 200 riot police prevented demonstrators from storming
the building (Photo: AFP).
For most of the 1990s, President Frederick Chiluba could count
on a legislature controlled by his Movement for Multiparty Democracy
(MMD). But Mwanawasa, chosen by Chiluba as the MMDs candidate,
wont have the same luxury. Now the MMD holds 75 seats
in Parliament against 80 for the opposition. (There is also
one independent.) To be sure, squabbling is rife among the opposition
parties over the allocation of posts like speaker and leader
of the opposition. So while the opposition may be able to block
the MMDs initiatives, its far from certain it will
be able to put together serious programs of its owna recipe
for disaster in a poverty-stricken country that desperately
needs economic leadership.
What we have is a stalemate and a caricature of government,
opposition FDD (Forum for Democracy and Development) party official
Sketchley Sacika was quoted as saying by The Post on
Jan. 18. Mwanawasa isnt even sure of firm support within
his own party, The Post commented on Jan. 21. Mwanawasa
allowed himself to be imposed on the MMD by Chiluba who hand-picked
him for a specific mission, that of protecting him and his henchmen,
the newspaper said. Now that Mwanawasa has named a cabinet
that is relatively light on Chiluba loyalists, The
Post went on, Chilubas camp is now [going] all
out to undermine Mwanawasa.
Meantime, petitions contesting Mwanawasas election from
the three leading opposition candidates are pending in the Supreme
Court. The government-owned Times of Zambia (Jan. 18)
questioned the oppositions claims of ballot rigging and
undercounting of opposition votes. The Times, quoting
a report from the independent Carter Center, which monitored
the elections, said the Atlanta-based organization had noted
discrepancies in vote counts, but that these had cut across
party lines and favored no single party.
Regardless of the merit of the opposition petitions, the structure
of Zambias constitution makes it almost impossible for
them to succeed, a prominent lawyer said. The Post quoted
Michelo Hansungule, professor of law at the University of Pretorias
Center for Human Rights, as saying the chief justice both declares
the results of the winner and then proceeds to sit on the Supreme
Court bench to determine...matters which he has just satisfied
One positive point about all the postelection contention is
that it hasnt spilled into the streets. No significant
election-linked disturbances had been reported as of Jan. 22.