Zambian president Edgar Lungu led his main election challenger Hakainde Hichilema as the vote count drew to a close amid complaints of irregularities by the main opposition and demands for a recount in the province with the most registered voters. Verified results from 132 of the 156 constituencies showed Lungu with 50.1 percent of the 2.9 million valid votes cast on Aug. 11 and Hichilema with 47.7 percent, the Electoral Commission of Zambia said Sunday. A candidate must win a majority to avoid a runoff. A high voter turnout and delays in transmitting results from regional centers has held up the release of tallies, commission Chairman Esau Chulu said Saturday. “We have formally requested a recount in Lusaka urban constituencies due to the high number of irregularities identified in the counting and transmission process,” Stephen Katuka, secretary general at Hichilema’s United Party for National Development, said in an e-mail. “The evidence clearly shows that without this recount the election would be severely compromised and could result in a stolen election.”
The law provides that the party can raise a petition within seven days “if they feel that something is not right,” Electoral Commission of Zambia spokesman Crispin Akufuna said in an interview.
“We cannot steal the vote. In this country, it’s the people that vote, not us,” Frank Bwalya, a spokesman for the Patriotic Front, told reporters at the tallying center in Lusaka, the capital. “The Electoral Commission of Zambia will do their work professionally. ”
Voting in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer was largely peaceful following a campaign that was marred by violence and claimed the lives of as many as six people. Lungu beat Hichilema by less than 28,000 votes in a snap election in January called after President Michael Sata died in office.
A European Union observer mission said the commission’s preparations were professional and it tried to increase transparency, yet failed to address the state media’s bias toward the ruling party. While voting went well, the PF misused public resources to campaign and statements made by the two main parties harmed public confidence in the elections and instilled a climate of fear in some areas, chief observer Cecile Kyenge said at a briefing in Lusaka.