Zambia Opposition Disputes Election, Delaying Inauguration

  • Opposition party lawyer says Aug. 11 vote wasn’t credible
  • Challenge leaves open who runs Africa’s #2 copper producer

Zambia’s opposition party challenged the results of the Aug. 11 election, delaying the inauguration of president-elect Edgar Lungu and provoking questions of who should run Africa’s second largest copper producer for now.

“The electoral commission failed to run a credible election,” Jack Mwiimbu, a lawyer for the United Party for National Development, said Friday by phone from Lusaka, the capital. “We are saying that the president-elect was not duly elected.”

Lungu won 50.4 percent of the vote against UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema’s 47.6 percent, enough to avoid a run-off, the Electoral Commission of Zambia said. Hichilema accused Lungu’s ruling Patriotic Front of colluding with the commission to manipulate the results, a claim they both denied.

The petition deepened political uncertainty in one of the continent’s most stable democracies after an election campaign tainted by violence and intimidation. It immediately provoked a dispute whether the constitution provides for the speaker of parliament to serve as acting president until the court issues a decision and a new president is inaugurated.

To read more on Zambia’s disputed election, click here

Zambia’s constitution allows seven days for an election petition to be filed with the Constitutional Court, which then has 14 days to consider the matter. The law doesn’t give a deadline for a final decision.

Parliamentary speaker Patrick Matibini should take over the executive functions of government until the court makes a ruling, said Eddie Mwitwa, vice president at the Law Association of Zambia. President Lungu’s spokesman, Amos Chanda, said there’s no constitutional provision for the parliamentary speaker to serve as acting president in the current situation.

“There is no power transfer to the speaker,” Chanda said by phone. “The constitution does not provide for that.”

Yields on Zambia’s $1 billion of bonds due April 2024 fell for a fourth day on Friday, dropping five basis points to 8.86 percent, the lowest on a closing basis since July 2015. The kwacha strengthened 1 percent to 9.80 per dollar, bringing its gain this week to 6.7 percent.

Hichilema said he believed the Constitutional Court would deliver a just decision.

“Victory is certain. We have come so far, we can’t walk back at this stage,” he told reporters late Friday. “We can’t allow thieves to take the day.”

Lungu won a January 2015 election to replace Michael Sata, who died in office, gaining fewer than 28,000 votes more than Hichilema, who called the outcome of that election “cooked.”

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