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Zambia’s Lungu re-elected in disputed vote

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Edgar Lungu / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Edgar Lungu / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Zambia’s incumbent President Edgar Lungu was on Monday declared the winner of a closely-fought election in the southern African country that the opposition claimed was rigged.

Election commission chief Esau Chulu announced that Lungu was “duly elected” after releasing the final results from Thursday’s election which put the president ahead of his main rival Hakainde Hichilema by around 200,000 votes.

Lungu polled over 1.86 million votes against Hichilema’s 1.66 million, according to results released four days after polling day.

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Hichilema had charged on Sunday that unexplained delays in releasing the results were a clear sign of fraud to produce a win for Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF).

“Clearly this is rigging an election, with the collusion of managers at the Electoral Commission of Zambia or commissioners,” said the wealthy businessman, who had made his fifth bid for the presidency.

“We know that the PF, once they realised that they were behind, they wanted to force a re-run. The winner in the elections could have been announced a day or two ago.”

The electoral commission had initially said that results would be announced within 48 hours of the close of voting.

– Weeks of clashes –
Copper-rich Zambia is usually known for its relative stability, but the run-up to the vote was marked by weeks of clashes between supporters of the rival parties which saw at least three people killed.

Election day — which saw a total of nine candidates run for president — was peaceful, with Zambian officials repeatedly issuing calls for calm to try to avoid a violent reaction to the results.

Zambia’s electorate had also cast ballots in parliamentary and muncipal elections as well as in a constitutional referendum.

The PF had blamed Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND) for the delays, saying it had raised numerous complaints with the electoral commission.

Lungu has been in office for just 19 months after he first took power last year when he beat Hichilema by less than 28,000 votes in a snap election following the death in office of president Michael Sata.

He was re-elected to a full five-year term.

Zambia, a British colony until 1964, recorded GDP growth of 3.6 percent last year — its slowest rate since 1998.

The falling price of copper, the country’s key export, has badly damaged the economy with thousands of jobs lost in mining and inflation soaring to over 20 percent.


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