Lungu Wins Zambia Presidential Vote Rival Vows to Challenge

  • UPND says it has begun process of appealing results in court
  • Ruling Patriotic Front denies allegations of vote-rigging

Zambian President Edgar Lungu was declared the winner of an Aug. 11 election that the main opposition claimed was rigged by the electoral commission and ruling party officials and vowed to challenge in court.

Lungu, 59, secured a five-year term with 50.4 percent of about 3.7 million valid votes cast, surpassing the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff, Electoral Commission of Zambia Chairman Esau Chulu said Monday in the capital Lusaka. Hakainde Hichilema, 54, the president of the United Party for National Development, who had failed to win the presidency on four previous occasions, got 47.6 percent support. The ruling Patriotic Front and electoral commission denied the result was manipulated.

Edgar Lungu votes on Aug. 11.
Edgar Lungu votes on Aug. 11.
Photographer: Dawood Salim/AFP via Getty Images

Lungu, a lawyer who previously served as defense and justice minister, took office after beating Hichilema by less than 28,000 votes in a snap poll in January last year called when President Michael Sata died in office. He’s pledged to continue a program to build new roads and universities, diversify the copper-dependent economy and cut energy and farm subsidies to reach a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund.

Constitutional Court

Africa’s second-biggest copper producer is growing at the slowest pace in 17 years and the currency has plunged over the past year, pushing the inflation rate to more than 20 percent.

The UPND has already begun the process of appealing the results, party lawyer Jack Mwiimbu told reporters after the results announcement.

“We are aware of the various violations of the law,” Mwiimbu said. “There are various cases of rigging. We wish to inform the people of Zambia that they should not despair. We have every hope that the Constitutional Court of this country will rise above this and declare these elections as annulled because of the various violations.”

The ruling party said Hichilema risked casting the nation into turmoil and called on the authorities to protect the office of the president and the electoral commission. PF members cheered and popped bottles of sparkling wine in the results center after the final tallies were announced.

The possibility of a protracted dispute over the result may distract attention from policy making and delay an IMF deal, John Ashbourne, a London-based economist at Capital Economics, said in e-mailed note.

Kwacha Gains

“It’s a victory for the poor people,” PF Secretary-General Davies Chama told reporters. “We’ll make sure we transform our nation beyond any recognition.”

The kwacha gained for the first day in six, strengthening 1.7 percent to 10.3198 per dollar by 4:05 p.m. in Lusaka on Monday, while the yield on 2024 dollar bonds rose nine basis points to 9.55 percent, retreating from a one-year low.

About 6.7 million of the nation’s 16.2 million people registered to cast ballots for president, lawmakers, mayors and councilors. Under Zambian law, the opposition has seven days to challenge the results in the Constitutional Court, which must hear the case within 14 days after a petition is filed. Lungu is due to be inaugurated on Aug. 24, the electoral commission’s Chulu said.

While a European Union observer mission found that voting went well and reports of campaign violence had been overblown, it said observer requests to access the results verification center had been denied. Observer teams from the African Union, Southern African Development Community and Electoral Institute for Southern Africa said they were satisfied with the vote and there were only isolated incidents of violence.

“There are probably legitimate concerns the opposition has,” Gary van Staden, an analyst at NKC African Economics, said by phone from Johannesburg. “The million-dollar question is what does the opposition do. I don’t expect this to escalate into major violence.”

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