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Zambian president says no new constitution before vote

Written by: Staff
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LUSAKA, Mar 31 (Reuters) Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa said he would not bow to opposition demands for a new constitution ahead of elections expected later this year and vowed to ''thrash'' his opponents at the polls.

Mwanawasa said Zambia's presidential and general elections would be held under the country's current constitution despite demands for an amendment to have the president elected by a 50 percent plus one vote rather than the current simple majority.

Mwanawasa said his government had agreed to have the new constitution adopted through a constituent assembly rather than parliament but said that would only occur after the elections.

''We will not have anything to do with constitutional matters.

We will leave such matters to a constituent assembly to fix,'' Mwanawasa told a news conference.

Analysts say Mwanawasa, who won the 2001 presidential election with 29 percent of the vote, fears he might lose the elections if the law were changed ahead of the poll.

About seven opposition parties have formed two alliances in bid to defeat Mwanawasa. They plan to field single presidential candidates. Mwanawasa, however, said the opposition was weak and that he would beat them at the polls.

''When people begin to assemble in small groups, then it means I am a force to reckon with. I am in no doubt that my colleagues (in the ruling party) and I will triumph,'' he said.

''We will thrash them and this is why they are forming alliances,'' Mwanawasa added.

An election date has yet to be set, but is likely to occur three months after Mwanawasa dissolves parliament. A Zambian cabinet minister told Reuters that parliament was likely to be dissolved in July.

REUTERS SK RN0527

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