Zambia’s High Court has barred three private media organizations from publishing speculative reports on the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential and parliamentary elections, as the country’s electoral commission scrambles to finish counting votes ahead its self-imposed Thursday deadline.
The court ruled Wednesday that the country’s leading privately-owned newspaper, The Post of Zambia, and two other media outlets were not allowed to publish stories announcing preliminary results before the numbers were officially announced.
On Thursday, unidentified hackers attacked the website of Zambia’s Electoral Commission, posting a string of statements claiming that opposition leader Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front party was in the lead over incumbent Rupiah Banda of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy.
The latest partial results from the election body suggest Mr. Sata does hold a slight lead over Mr. Banda. Analysts say Mr. Sata’s early lead has been boosted by a strong performance in Zambia’s urban areas, where votes are likely to be counted more quickly. Mr. Banda is expected to perform stronger in the countryside.
The commission has said it aims to have complete results from all 150 constituencies by the end of the day on Thursday. Pre-election surveys suggested a close race between President Banda and Mr. Sata, who is making his fourth run for the presidency.
Scattered incidents of violence were reported Tuesday in the capital, Lusaka, but European Union election observers say the vote was conducted in a “correct” manner. EU chief election observer Maria Muniz described the election as fair and transparent.