The 21st century
Eleven parties contested the elections in December 2001; many alleged serious irregularities. The MMD's candidate and Chiluba's chosen successor, Levy Mwanawasa, was narrowly declared as the victor, having won just 29% of the vote. These chaotic elections were criticised by international observers, and three of the opposition parties challenged the results in the High Court.
Mwanawasa is a lawyer by profession. He has practised in Zambia since 1973, and was the first Zambian lawyer to be appointed an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. Chiluba appointed him as vice-president in 1991, but he quit the government three years later, following a row with then minister-without-portfolio Michael Sata, and returned to his successful law career.
Mwanawasa seems to be universally respected for his integrity. As a lawyer he had a reputation for taking on cases that most wouldn't touch, and his election campaign stressed the rule of one law for everyone. His health has been a more contentious issue, with opposition politicians pointing to occasional slurs and slips, including one famous occasion when he referred to Chiluba as his sister. Taunts of 'vegetable' or 'cabbage' were used by protesters during the 2001 election, who claimed that he cannot handle the heavy duties of a president.
Although many expected him to be a puppet of Chiluba, Mwanawasa proved them wrong. He launched an anti-corruption campaign in 2002 which resulted in the prosecution of his patron, Chiluba, and many of Chiluba's supporters.
Opposition parties currently hold a slim majority of seats in the National Assembly. The next elections are due in December 2006, and are sure to be hotly contested by a number of parties.
On a less consequential note, keep your eye open for political slogans when you travel. I once saw one in Livingstone encouraging people to vote for women with the slogan: 'A government without women is like a pot on one stone.' This is, of course, immediately intelligible to any Zambian who cooks on an open fire.