September 9, 2006

President trails main challenger in opinion poll

In the run-up to the September 28th presidential election a new opinion poll has placed Zambia's main opposition challenger Michael Sata ahead of President Levy Mwanawasa. The University of Zambia poll echoed findings by a similar poll that was released before. Sata has emerged as the main challenger to Mwanawasa followed by wealthy Lusaka businessman Hakainde Hichilema, who is contesting the vote on the ticket of three main political parties under the umbrella United Democratic Alliance (UDA). "The (poll) shows that if elections were held now, at a voter turn-out of 75 percent countrywide, Michael C. Sata would win by 52 percent, followed by Levy Mwanawasa at 27 percent and Hakainde Hichilema at 20 percent," the pollsters said in a statement. They said they captured 3,800 voters in all nine Zambia provinces and that only 200 voters said they had yet to pick a preferred candidate.
Mwanawasa questioned the results of the survey, saying Sata had fielded only 102 out of 150 parliamentary candidates. “They are giving Sata 52 percent (when) he has fielded only
102 parliamentary candidates (and) so that is already 30 percent gone," he was quoted. Mwanawasa said opinion polls should be stopped because they were "interfering with democracy and confusing people".
Michael Sata of the opposition Patriotic Front, had before sparked a diplomatic row between China, a leading investor in the country's copper export industry, and Zambia after calling Taiwan a sovereign state and after indicating at campaign meetings that he would expel Chinese investors and managers, whom he accused of exploiting Zambian workers. During the election rallies he is promising to reduce the country's tax rates: Zambia's 4.000 government workers pay monthly taxes of between 35 percent and 37 percent of their basic pay.
Businessman Hakainde Hichilema's United Democratic Alliance is looking to woo voters by offering free education up to university level - education is currently free only up to grade seven - while former Cabinet minister Godfrey Miyanda's Heritage Party has pledged to revitalise the agricultural sector. New electoral laws ban the use of public money for campaigning by the ruling party and forbid biased coverage by the state-owned media. The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has also introduced new cards for voters and transparent ballot boxes to help guarantee a fair vote. (The Times of Zambia, Ndola / Rts)

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