LUSAKA, Zambia — Long lines of Zambian voters, some barefoot, snaked through muddy fields and parking lots Thursday as this impoverished African country held its third democratic election in 37 years.
The polls stayed open late to accommodate the unexpectedly high turnout in an election to replace outgoing President Frederick Chiluba, barred from reelection by term limits.
Eleven candidates are competing for the top job, but analysts say the race is between three leading candidates and too close to call.
Opposition leaders Anderson Mazoka and Christon Tembo are the favorites to stop Chiluba's chosen heir, Levy Mwanawasa, from succeeding him.
Without a clear front-runner, Zambians--who have had only two leaders since gaining independence in 1964--could get their first coalition government.
"It's about time normal Zambians take the destiny of the nation into our own hands," said salesman Patu Nyalugwe, 41. "Everybody who has come to vote is looking to change something for the better."
One farmer, Ellen Muyoba, walked two hours to vote in Chisamba, north of the capital, Lusaka.
Chiluba's successor inherits a country where one-fifth of the 10 million people may be left hungry by a bad harvest, more than four-fifths live below the poverty line and one-tenth have the virus that causes AIDS.
Zambia boasts one of the world's largest copper reserves, but efforts by Chiluba's government to publicly sell the mines were marred by ineptitude and corruption.
Thursday's election includes parliamentary and local council races.