Michael Sata, leader of Zambia's opposition party the Patriotic Front (PF) has won Zambia's presidential elections with 43% of the vote to incumbent, Rupiah Banda, of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) who polled 36 percent with seven constituencies left to be counted.
Sata, popularly known as "King Cobra" for his venomous tongue against poor labor conditions in foreign mining firms, was declared the winner by Chief Justice Ernest Sakala in another tightly contested election. He is to be sworn in as Zambia's fifth post independent president.
The smooth transition of power has been welcomed and seen by many as an encouraging sign of democracy, especially against a backdrop of recent bitterly contested presidential elections including Cote d'Ivoire in 2010, Zimbabwe in 2008 and Kenya in 2007 and 2008.
In Zambia, the outgoing president Banda, in a rare move in African politics, has accepted the results and conceded defeat. However, while the vote went on largely smoothly, it was nearly marred by small pockets of riots and intermittent protests particularly in the capital Lusaka and the northern mining regions.
Moreover, a delay in announcing some of the results raised suspicion of a 'Kenyan style' tempering of the vote in favor of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), the opposition. Tensions were further heightened by a ban on the media announcing results that were not verified by the electoral commission.
Following Sata's win, there have been various opinions on whether there will be any change in Zambia's economic, domestic and foreign policy positions. Although Sata has previously used what bordered on xenophobic rhetoric to garner support, some think his ideological stance has largely been motivated by mere politicking and as a campaign strategy. His recent departure from his populist policy stance where he previously called for an increase in taxes on mining companies, to a new position that favors low taxes for foreign mining investors indicates that he realizes the risks of tinkering with the economy. Also, in a perceived departure from anti-Chinese sentiment, Sata has reportedly been speaking about "smart partnership" with China.
There are high expectations for the new president especially from the people who voted him in. Due to unprecedented levels of foreign investment the former president was able to create economic growth. It is now up to Sata to continue this economic growth the country has experienced in order to relieve the high unemployment and poverty the nation faces.
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