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Daily Archives: November 4, 2008

Zambian opposition demands recount in presidential vote


Zambian opposition leader Michael Sata is seeking a recount in last week's presidential election, which he lost to the ruling party's Rupiah Banda by just 35,000 votes, a spokesman said yesterday.
Sata's Patriotic Front has written to the election commission seeking a recount in 78 of Zambia's 150 constituencies, saying the tallies should be verified by independent monitors and party agents, spokesman Given Mubinda said.
"We hope the recount and verification can be done soon," he said.
"We merely want a recount which will show that the results were not accurate," he added.
Banda, of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), was sworn in as president Sunday — just two hours after election officials declared him the winner with 40.09 percent of the vote to Sata's 38.13 percent.
Even before the ballots were cast, Sata warned that he would not accept a defeat and accused election officials of rigging the ballots and inflating the voter roll in favour of the ruling party.
The election commission has denied the charges, and African observers declared the vote free and fair.
Scores of Sata's supporters rioted in a Lusaka slum late Saturday in protest at the outcome, burning stalls in a market and throwing stones in the streets, according to witnesses.
Police used teargas to break up the crowd, and no other incidents have been reported.
Sata supporters in Lusaka said they believed the claims of vote fraud.
"I'm not happy because the election was not fair, I think there was vote-rigging," said Charles Mamba, 27.
Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the smaller United Party for National Development (UPND) who placed third in the race, said he also believed the vote was marred by fraud.
But Hichilema said that he would not challenge the results in court, saying he was focussing on general elections due in 2011.
The election was called following the death of president Levy Mwanwasa in August. Banda will now serve out the last three years of Mwanawasa's term.
Analysts said that Banda's narrow election victory in a race with only 45 percent voter turnout highlighted public frustrations with the MMD, which has run Zambia since 1991.
Sata, 71, won strong support in Lusaka and in the Copperbelt, which host most of Zambia's jobs in the key mining industry, where many were drawn to his promises of better jobs and housing.
But the results showed Sata — who was in his third presidential bid — had made inroads in rural areas that had previously supported the ruling party.
Rural Zambia has largely been left out of Zambia's recent economic gains.
Under Mwanawasa, Zambia posted average economic growth of 4.9 percent over the last seven years, due largely to the global commodities boom which sent prices soaring for copper, the country's main export.
But 51 percent of the country's 11.7 million people still live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than one dollar a day.
Banda, a 71-year-old Western-educated former diplomat, had campaigned on promises to maintain Mwanawasa's economic policies, saying he would bring stability to the country.
He faces tough social challenges in a country where more than one million people have HIV, while Zambia's economic outlook is darkening as copper prices tumbled by 50 percent from their peak in July.

Thousands of Iranians protest at old US embassy

by Siavosh Ghazi*

Thousands of young Iranians chanting "Death to America!" rallied outside the former US embassy in Tehran yesterday to mark the 29th anniversary of the seizure of the building by Islamic revolutionaries.
The demonstrators, mainly schoolchildren and students, also brandished banners bearing the same slogan as well as "Death to Israel," and burned US and Israeli flags and effigies of Uncle Sam, who symbolises the United States.
"We will not get on with America even for a moment," read one placard carried by demonstrators standing in the rain outside what is dubbed the "Den of Spies" in central Tehran.
"Iranian people regard America as the Great Satan and the main instigator of wars and insecurity in the world," said a declaration read out at the rally which appeared to be less crowded than in previous years.
Tehran and Washington have had no diplomatic relations for nearly three decades since students took American diplomats hostage for 444 days following the 1979 Islamic revolution which toppled the US-backed shah.
The embassy compound, now run by Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, is used as an educational centre with occasional exhibitions about the "crimes" of the United States.
Yesterday's demonstration came ahead of the US presidential election pitting Republican John McCain against Democrat front-runner Barack Obama, who many Iranians think might aid a thaw between the arch-foes.
"Obama is good, because he is concerned about his people and he is not into war," said Amir, a 16-year-old high school student.
But Mahmoud, 19, a member of the hardline Islamist Basij militia, sees no difference between the candidates. "One person does not change US policy. Whoever is elected will not be able to do anything against Iran," he said.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week that hatred of Washington was deep-seated and praised the Islamist students who took over "the centre of espionage."
"Besides, they (the United States) have not apologised yet and rather keep on with their arrogant attitude," Khamenei said.
Tensions have mounted over Iran's nuclear programme which many Western countries believe is a cover for ambitions to build atomic weapons — an allegation vehemently denied by Tehran.
How to deal with Iran has been one of the foreign policy issues in the November 4 race. Washington has so far pushed for tougher sanctions and has never ruled out a military option to thwart Iran's nuclear drive.
In their declaration, the demonstrators condemned "shameless efforts by the United States and a few countries to prevent Iran's scientific growth" and US "political pressure" on Iran over its nuclear programme.
Tehran has defied international demands and pressed ahead with its sensitive uranium enrichment work — the process which can be used to make nuclear fuel or the fissile core of an atom bomb.
Tehran insists that its nuclear ambitions are strictly peaceful and aimed solely at generating electricity for a growing population.