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    Zambia's `King Cobra' Takes Lead in Presidential Vote

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    sang_garuda
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    Zambia's `King Cobra' Takes Lead in Presidential Vote

    Post by sang_garuda on Fri Oct 31, 2008 6:05 pm

    Zambian opposition leader Michael Sata, known by supporters as ``King Cobra'' for his attacking style of politics, took an early lead in the southern African nation's presidential election, preliminary results showed.

    Sata, leader of the Patriotic Front, has won 59.5 percent of the ballots cast in 19 out of 150 constituencies, Florence Mumba, chairwoman of the Electoral Commission of Zambia, told reporters today in the capital, Lusaka. Acting president and ruling party candidate Rupiah Banda trails with 30.5 percent.

    ``It's still too early to draw any conclusions,'' Razia Khan, Africa economist at Standard Chartered Plc, said by phone from London today. ``Given the support for the Patriotic Front in the urban areas, it's not surprising, and is exactly what we saw in 2006.''

    Sata campaigned to do more to spread the wealth of Africa's biggest copper producer among Zambians, a message that resonated with the young and unemployed in the country, where 64 percent of the population live in poverty. A poll by the Nairobi-based Steadman Group last week predicted Sata will win 40 percent of the vote, compared with 29 percent support for Banda. The survey had a margin or error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

    Yesterday's presidential ballot was called to find a replacement for the late President Levy Mwanawasa, 59, who died in office on Aug. 19. Sata, 71, was defeated by Mwanawasa in elections in 2006, after early poll results also showed him leading.

    Economic Expansion

    Banda, 72, pledged to continue with policies that helped the economy expand 5.4 percent last year. Mwanawasa's policies of giving mining companies tax incentives, curbing inflation, cutting government spending and selling some state assets helped to boost private investment and allowed the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to cancel Zambia's debt in 2006.

    Sata said yesterday voting was being rigged in favor of Banda and vowed not to accept the results if his rival wins. Election observer teams from the African Union and Southern African Development Community said yesterday the elections had run smoothly, without any reported incidents of violence or voter fraud.

    Hakainde Hichilema, 46, leader of the United Party for National Development had 8.2 percent of the votes reported so far, while former vice president Godfrey Miyanda, leader of the Heritage Party, received 0.66 percent, according to the commission. Voter turnout was 52 percent.


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