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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 11:25 GMT
Zambian opposition loses key vote
Counting votes
The EU says the results may not reflect the votes
Zambia's Government has outmanoeuvred the opposition by winning the vote for a new parliamentary speaker.

The combined opposition has a narrow majority in parliament but three opposition MPs voted for the MMD's Amussa Mwanamwamwa.

Opposition leader Anderson Mazoka
The opposition has failed to unite - again
This government victory came as the European Union said that President Levy Mwanawasa may not have won December's elections despite being officially declared the winner.

The Electoral Commission said Mr Mwanawasa had gained 29% of the vote, with his nearest challenger, Anderson Mazoka getting 27%.

"In view of the administrative failures on polling day, the serious flaws in counting and tabulation procedures, together with the close outcome of elections, we are not confident that the declared results represent the wishes of the Zambian electors on polling day," the EU said in its final report on the elections.

Tatters

The opposition strongly disputed the results and has filed legal challenges.

After initially threatening street protests, opposition leaders instead said they would use their parliamentary majority to frustrate the government's legislative programme.

President Levy Mwanawasa
Mwanawasa insists the election was fair

But this strategy now lies in tatters after the opposition parties failed to vote together.

After the vote, police had to restrain opposition lawmakers from manhandling one of their colleagues who had voted for the MMD candidate.

The BBC's Richard Lee in Lusaka says that there many opposition MPs were looking rather glum after the vote.

Meddling

At the time of the December poll, analysts noted that a united opposition candidate would probably have won the poll but instead several strong candidates stood against Mr Mwanawasa.

Mr Mazoka of the UPND party, and two other opposition candidates, have asked the Supreme Court to nullify the official results, claiming massive electoral fraud.

Our correspondent says that the final EU report could be used to back up the opposition's court case.

Mr Mwanawasa has rejected accusations that his election was not valid and has in turn accused the EU of meddling in Zambia's internal affairs.

See also:

07 Jan 02 | Africa
Familiar look to Zambian cabinet
03 Jan 02 | Africa
Zambian leader's poisoned chalice
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