Zambia President Re-Elected in Close Vote

Zambia’s president has been re-elected in a closely contested vote that the opposition claims was rigged.

The electoral commission said incumbent Edgar Lungu, of the ruling Patriotic Front won more than 50 percent of the vote defeating his main rival, Hakainde Hichilema, of the United Party for National Development (UPND), who took just under 48 percent.

Election commission chief Esau Chulu said Lungu was “duly elected” after releasing the final results of Thursday’s vote.

Members of Hichilema’s party allege vote tampering in the election and say they will appeal the results to Zambia’s Constitutional Court.

A legal specialist for the opposition UPND told reporters “We have evidence with us to the effect that the votes for Hakainde Hichilema have been deliberately reduced in collusion with the Electoral Commission of Zambia.” He said there is a pattern of several thousand missing votes for Hichilema in each voting district.

Hundreds of Lungu supporters took to the streets Monday to celebrate.

“In this tense and competitive climate it is essential that the security forces respect the constitution and remain impartial and professional in the discharge of their duties,” said Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary general.

The Zambia election campaign was marked by weeks of clashes between supporters of the rival parties, which saw at least three people killed.

Lungu has served since January 2015, following the death of President Michael Sata. He defeated Hichilema in a snap election called last year, winning by just 28,000 votes.

The political tension in Zambia is accompanied by a struggling economy, largely because of a fall in the price of copper, the country’s main export. Zambia is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for financial assistance.