“Elections not free and fair,” President Lungu
Zambian President Edgar Lungu has declared Thursday’s presidential and parliamentary election “not free and fair” after incidents of violence in three provinces. This was according to a statement released on Saturday.
Lungu, who was trailing his main contender Hakainde Hichilema in results from the electoral commission, said the Patriotic Front party that he leads was consulting on its next course of action.
“President Lungu says the general election in three provinces, namely, southern province, North-Western province, and Western Province, were characterized by violence, rendering the whole exercise a nullity,” read the statement from his office.
He said Patriotic Front polling agents were brutalized and chased from polling stations, a situation that left the ruling party’s votes unprotected in those three provinces.
Citing the killing of a party chairman in North-Western province during voting, and the death of another man, Lungu said these criminal acts rendered the general election “not free and fair”.
Lungu brought in army reinforcements to help quell violence when the deaths occurred.
In response, Mr. Hichilema said the statement was a “desperate final act of an outgoing administration”
Lungu, 64, has been in power since 2015. Hichilema – known as “HH”, is a businessman who has criticized the president’s management of Zambia.
Results from 31 of the country’s 156 constituencies gave Hichilema 449,699 votes versus the 266,202 garnered by Lungu, who is running for a second five-year term.
The first results had initially been expected on Friday. However, they were delayed after counting went on overnight.
An estimated 7 million people registered to vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections in Zambia, Africa’s second-biggest copper producer.
European Union election observers said in a preliminary report that the vote was “marred by unequal campaign restrictions, restrictions on freedoms of assembly and movement, and abuse of incumbency”.
Social media and internet access were also shut down on Thursday. On Friday, the High Court in Lusaka ruled that access to the internet should be fully restored.
Amidst all these, the European and African observers said the election had been largely peaceful.
Candidates can dispute an election by filing a petition in the country’s Constitutional Court thus stopping the winning candidate from exercising executive powers until the petition is heard in court.