Zambia's new President, Levy Mwanawasa scraped into office by the skin of his teeth and amid allegations of vote-rigging by the opposition. He now presides over a very finely balanced parliament. The question is will the new leader, whose credentials for honesty are impeccable, now be able to create the 'clean government' he has promised or will the realities of politics force him off course. Tom Nevin with some early observations.
As the dust settles after Zambia's rowdiest election in its nearly 40 years as an independent democracy, newly-sworn in President Levy Mwanawasa has picked up the reins to a rumbustious and potentially uncooperative steed. Although the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) is back in power, the division of parliament is more precarious than the ruling parry would like, and the new President and his lieutenants can look forward to many a tussle in the house, as well as a slew of courtroom battles on vote-rigging charges.
If some opposition MPs have their way, MMD rule could be short-lived. The 53year-old Mwanawasa now faces the rigours of an unpopular Presidency - more than 70% of Zambia's voters don't want him as President.
Mwanawasa edged in by a scant 1% over his nearest rival, Anderson Mazoka, leader of the United Parry for National Development (UPND). It was even closer in the simultaneously held parliamentary elections where a hung parliament is a distinct possibility.
Mwanawasa s counter to threatened parliamentary paralysis was to offer government positions to the leaders of smaller opposition parties, with varying degrees of success.
A messy government?
It may nor be as simple as that in the longer term. Opposition parties have promised to take some election results to court, although proving fraudulent polling will be a costly legal battle with scant hope of victory. At the same time, governing could become a messy business if the balance-of-power seats are in limbo while they wait for the outcome of the legal battles.
The question still remains whether or nor the elections were rigged as the losers maintain. The MMD insists they were free and fair, the UPND insists they were not; observers from the European Union reported they were 'flawed', the US reserved judgement awaiting more evidence. An early challenge by the UPND was overturned in the High Court, but may have more success in a Supreme Court hearing.
One political leader anticipating another parliamentary election soon is Zambia Republican Party (ZRP) President Ben Mwila because "a minority government cannot defeat a motion in Parliament".
Mwila also warned that "there will be many petitions and by-elections" that could come about because of election irregularity. "In Musanzula constituency," he noted, "there were more people who voted than there were registered voters in that electoral district. There are many...