February 18, 2005

Supreme Court upholds Mwanawasa's election

Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president, has vowed to deepen his anti-graft campaign after a court upheld his controversial 2001 election victory, warning opposition critics to beware of taking him on. Mwanawasa, who has focused on stamping out corruption since taking office, said he had been given a new mandate by the Supreme Court's decision validating his poll victory despite some irregularities. As Mwanawasa said, the Supreme Court had declared him the duly and lawfully elected president. Opposition parties, who had fought a three year battle to have his 2001 win annulled, should now help him fight poverty instead of launching unwarranted attacks. "I have been harassed by the opposition since I became president three years ago. Criticism should be focused because if it borders on treason, then they are promoting anarchy," Mwanawasa said. Opposition parties have previously suggested that Mwanawasa should be removed from power but have not specified how - leaving them open to charges of treason under Zambian law which forbids any possible incitement to a military coup.

According to analysts, Mwanawasa's statement could indicate a crackdown on dissent as he consolidates his hold over the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) despite simmering anger over the anti-corruption campaign. "The tone of the president's sentiments shows he might use the court decision to crack down on dissenting views," said Alfred Chanda, a prominent Lusaka constitutional lawyer and political analyst. Mwanawasa said he would concentrate on fighting graft, including within the MMD, pushing ahead with a campaign which has targeted a number of senior political figures including his predecessor Frederick Chiluba. (SABC News, South Africa)

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