Zam­bians anx­ious as elec­tion re­sults de­layed

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

ZAM­BIA’S elec­toral com­mis­sion has de­layed an­nounc­ing ini­tial re­sults of Thurs­day’s pres­i­den­tial vote, ad­ding to anx­i­eties af­ter a some­times vi­o­lent cam­paign whose re­sult is too close to call.

The Elec­toral Com­mis­sion of Zam­bia (ECZ) had promised to re­lease the first batch of re­sults at 1200 GMT yes­ter­day, but post­poned that to 1300 GMT and then 1600 GMT, say­ing it was still au­dit­ing them.

“The ver­i­fi­ca­tion is tak­ing longer than we had an­tic­i­pated and, apart from that, the com­mis­sion is cur­rently meet­ing po­lit­i­cal party pres­i­dents,” ECZ spokesman Cris Aku­funa told re­porters af­ter the sec­ond dead­line was missed. He gave no fur­ther de­tails.

A pro­longed de­lay could raise op­po­si­tion doubts about the cred­i­bil­ity of the elec­tion, said Bjorn Dahlin Van Wees, Africa an­a­lyst at the Economist In­tel­li­gence Unit.

“It would prob­a­bly ag­i­tate op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers and in­crease the risk of vote rig­ging ac­cu­sa­tions be­ing lev­elled against the elec­tion au­thor­i­ties and the rul­ing party,” he said.

A tight re­sult is widely ex­pected as Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu fends off a chal­lenge from Hakainde Hichilema, who ac­cuses Lungu of mis­man­ag­ing the econ­omy of the ma­jor cop­per pro­ducer that has sought IMF sup­port af­ter be­ing hit by weak com­mod­ity prices.

Lungu nar­rowly won a vote 20 months ago to fill the va­cancy cre­ated by the death of pres­i­dent Michael Sata. If he fails to win an out­right ma­jor­ity this time, he will be forced into a sec­on­dround re-run against Hichilema that must be held within 37 days. Dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, sup­port­ers of Lungu’s gov­ern­ing Pa­tri­otic Front clashed with those of Hichilema’s United Party for Na­tional De­vel­op­ment, but there were no re­ports of vi­o­lence on elec­tion day.

“It is the pos­si­bil­ity of a sec­ond round and an­other four or five weeks of cam­paign­ing that raises ad­di­tional fears of con­flict,” NKC Africa an­a­lyst Gary van Staden said.

“But . . . given that Zam­bia does have strong demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions, that it has a strong and ro­bust civil so­ci­ety and a peo­ple with a long his­tory of peace­ful en­gage­ment, there is rea­son to re­main op­ti­mistic.”

James Bu­laya, a 40-year-old me­chanic who voted for Lungu, said: “I think the elec­toral com­mis­sion is just try­ing to do a good job. Ob­vi­ously this (de­lay) is rais­ing a lot of anx­i­ety but I am still con­fi­dent that Edgar Lungu will win.”

Su­san Jere, a 22-year-old stu­dent who sup­ports Hichilema, said: “They can de­lay the an­nounce­ment but it won’t change the out­come. Ul­ti­mately ‘HH’ will be de­clared the win­ner.”

Of­fi­cials re­ported a high turnout on Thurs­day, when Zam­bians also voted for the vice pres­i­dent, mem­bers of par­lia­ment, coun­cil­lors and in a ref­er­en­dum on changes to the con­sti­tu­tion. — AFP

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