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Wednesday, 18 July, 2001, 01:18 GMT 02:18 UK
Clashes mar Zambian poll
Anti-Chiluba protesters on the march in Lusaka
Lusaka has been a political hot bed this year
Police in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, fired tear gas to break up violent clashes as voting ended in a crucial by-election on Tuesday.

Journalist Alphonsus Hamacila told the BBC that supporters and opponents of President Frederick Chiluba had fought with guns and machetes in the Chiwama constituency.

This is the first electoral test for the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) since it split over the issue of a possible third term in office for Mr Chiluba. Results are expected on Wednesday morning.

Our supporters suspect that they want to disappear with the boxes to go and rig

Edith Nawakwi
A police officer told the French news agency AFP that the fighting started because MMD supporters wanted to move the ballot boxes for counting.

Edith Nawakwi, secretary-general of the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), said: "Our supporters suspect that they want to disappear with the boxes to go and rig."

The FDD was formed by MMD dissidents opposed to Mr Chiluba serving a third term as president.

Chawama used to be the seat of Christon Tembo, who was vice-president until he was sacked for forming the FDD.

Clashes between rival political supporters at the weekend left at least eight people injured.

Corruption trial

Mr Hamacila said that a female journalist had been severely beaten up but that other casualty figures were not yet known.

The BBC's Anthony Kunda in Lusaka says that voting passed off peacefully during the day but that turn-out was low for three reasons:

  • some people were afraid of more violence;
  • others seem to have lost interest in politics;
  • voters are waiting for presidential elections later this year when more will be at stake.

The murder, earlier this month, of a prominent former Chiluba aide hours before he was due to give evidence in a corruption trial involving three cabinet ministers only served to increase political tensions.

Frederick Chiluba
Chiluba has now said he will not seek a third term
The president has shelved his plans to seek a third term, but only after sacking half his cabinet, facing national protests and then seeing an exodus of MPs from his party.

Despite the recent ructions, the remainder of the MMD say they are confident of recapturing the seat.

National Secretary Michael Sata said: "There is no opposition. This is why they are stoning government vehicles instead of influencing voters."

The FDD, though, are also confident.

Edith Nawakwi told AFP: "So far we are leading on the ground. Unless there is rigging, we are winning the seat."

Presidential and parliamentary elections are due to take place before the end of the year.

See also:

05 May 01 | Africa
Zambian protests turn violent
04 May 01 | Africa
Chiluba: 'I won't stand again'
21 Apr 01 | Africa
Ministers tell Chiluba: Time's up
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Zambia
25 May 01 | Africa
Zambia's ruling party splits
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