Zambia’s constitutional court on Monday threw out an attempt by the defeated presidential candidate to annul August’s election results, clearing the way for President Edgar Lungu’s inauguration next week. Hakainde Hichilema, who lost the election by 100,000 votes, alleged that the result was rigged and launched a legal bid to stop Lungu retaining power. Zambia is known for its relative stability, but the run-up to the vote was marked by clashes between supporters of Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) and Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND). “There is no petition to be heard before this court,” said judge Annie Sitali, ruling that a 14-day deadline for the legal challenge had expired.
Hichilema had argued for an extension after legal arguments lasted until midnight on Friday. He attended court on Monday, along with hundreds of supporters gathered outside. “We wish to tell the nation that we have rejected the court ruling,” his UPND party said in statement later.
The official results put Lungu narrowly ahead on 50.35 percent against 47.63 percent for Hichilema among a field of nine candidates — just enough to avoid a second-round run-off.
Lungu, 59, will be sworn in on September 13, the government announced. He first took office last year after beating Hichilema in a snap election, and has since faced falling prices for copper — the country’s key export — soaring unemployment and inflation rising to over 20 percent.