Opposition heads to court
By Nsikan Ikpe
Controversy is trailing the outcome of last week’s presidential polls outcome in Zambia that had delivered victory to incumbent president Edgar Lungu but which is being fiercely contentested by his main opponent Hakainde Hichilema.
According to the Electoral Commssion, Lungu, and his Patriotic Front (PF), chalked 50.35 percent of the vote, leaving 47.67 percent for Hichilema, who ran on the banner of the United Party for National Development (UPND).
In a prompt response however, the opposition party which had earlier registered its concern over the delay in announcing the polls outcome rejected the result, claiming the electoral commission had been compromised.
“We have evidence to the effect that the votes for Hakainde Hichilema have been deliberately reduced in collusion with the Electoral Commission of Zambia,” the UPND’s lawyer, Jack Mwiimbu, told journalists.
“We have confidence that the constitutional court will rise above board and declare the results a nullity,” he affirmed.
Police said officers were sent to quell rioting by Hichilema’s supporters in the south of the country who blocked roads and burned tyres after the result was announced. Southern province police commissioner Goldwin Phiri reported clashes with police in the towns of Monze, Chombe and Mazabuka.
“We don’t know where we are headed, but … there will be trouble,” a civil servant in Mazabuka told DPA news agency.
Indeed, a lot of of doubt had already been cast over the process with commentators and watchers raising many complaints about the campaign period and vote-counting process. International observer missions, including the European Union, had in the past for example agreed with opposition claims that the state media was heavily biased towards the government even as they were equally troubled that the police had acted with political motives at times, and had also cracked down “quite harshly” on some of the opposition’s political gatherings.
The election was fought around the issues of rising unemployment, mine closures, power shortages and soaring food prices which Hichilema, an economist and businessman, blamed on Lungu’s mismanagement.
Lungu has been in office for just 19 months after he first took power last year when he beat Hichilema by fewer than 28,000 votes in a snap election following the death in office of president Michael Sata.
His re-election will see him remain in power for another five-year term.
Hundreds of Lungu’s supporters, most of them young men draped in PF regalia, took to the streets of Lusaka, chanting slogans and singing, while drivers hooted their car horns in celebration.
Emanuel Phiri, 48, a taxi driver, said he believed Lungu was the popular choice of the Zambian people.
“Lungu really worked hard for this and God has made it possible,” he told Al Jazeera.
The opposition, however, has launched a challenge to the result and will appear in court later in the week.
“We are going to petition this election in court. It was full of irregularities, malpractices and vote stealing,” said Brian Mwiinga, spokesperson for Hichilema’s UPND.
“The narrow margin that the electoral commission claims Lungu won by is not legitimate and because it is such a small percentage it shows that it does not reflect the will of the people; instead it simply tells us the story that the election was stolen,” he stated.
Aspokesperson for the Electoral Commission of Zambia, declined to comment on the disputed result, but requested aggrieved parties to submit their complaints in writing.
On its part, the Zambia Election Information Centre, a coalition of civil society organisations focusing on governance and electoral procedure, said that several flaws in the election process made it difficult to accept that it was a fair victory.
“There are strong concerns in the electoral commission’s handling of matters concerning results, and these should be taken up in the courts by political parties,” its spokesman, Gilles Kasongo noted, adding that the use of public funds to finance the ruling party’s campaign means the victory “cannot be seen as a just win”.