Mwanawasa Sworn in As Zambia President

The Associated Press
Tuesday, October 3, 2006; 5:42 PM

LUSAKA, Zambia -- Zambia's president was sworn in for a second term Tuesday after a bitter electoral contest that sparked rioting and accusations of voter fraud.

President Levy Mwanawasa weathered searing attacks from a splintered but relentless opposition to win another five years in office.

While his opponents charge that the election was rigged, international observers said it was largely smooth and transparent.

Mwanawasa's re-election did not amount to a ringing endorsement of his economic and anti-corruption reforms, which have won plaudits from international donors but fueled resentment among many jobless Zambians, analysts said.

After four days of slow vote-counting and postelection riots in the streets of Lusaka and the northern mining and industrial heartland, the Election Commission announced late Monday that Mwanawasa, with 43 percent of the vote, had beaten back challenges from populist firebrand Michael Sata, who received 30 percent of last Thursday's vote.

He was sworn in during a colorful ceremony at the parliament building in Lusaka.

Mwanawasa, 58, lost in Lusaka and Zambia's copper mining region by huge margins to Sata, a charismatic former policeman who turned Zambia's presidential race on its head.

Sata, 69, drew massive support in poor townships with provocative promises of jobs, housing, decisive leadership and a crackdown on "bogus" investors whom he said included the growing number of Chinese traders in the country.

Two days of rioting throughout Lusaka's impoverished townships by disappointed Sata supporters _ a rare occurrence in this traditionally peaceful country _ underscored widespread dissatisfaction with Mwanawasa's administration.

Mwanawasa won the presidency in 2001 with only 29 percent of the vote in an election marred by allegations of fraud. As he sought to establish his legitimacy, he seized on anti-corruption and economic reforms.

His market-opening economic policies drew support from the United States, the World Bank and other donor and lending institutions who agreed last year to cancel nearly all of Zambia's $7.2 billion foreign debt.

Mwanawasa's victory drew sighs of relief from foreign investors and many in Zambia's middle-class who were growing increasingly wary of Sata's pledges to evict foreign investors and his statements of admiration for the policies of dictatorial President Robert Mugabe that have driven neighboring Zimbabwe into economic meltdown.

While conceding the election and saying he will not challenge the results in court, Sata said he did not intend to stay quiet.

"It's a bitter pill to swallow, but we must reorganize and soldier on," he said.

© 2006 The Associated Press