Lungu’s inau­gu­ra­tion de­layed

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide/opinion -

LUSAKA — Zam­bian Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu said on Tues­day his inau­gu­ra­tion would be de­layed un­til a court rules on a chal­lenge from his main elec­tion ri­val who said the vote was rigged.

Re­sults on Mon­day showed Lungu nar­rowly won re-elec­tion in Africa’s sec­ond-largest cop­per pro­ducer which is suf­fer­ing an eco­nomic slump due to de­pressed com­mod­ity prices.

But his ri­val, op­po­si­tion leader Hakainde Hichilema, said he would chal­lenge the re­sult, al­leg­ing fraud dur­ing the vote count­ing process af­ter Thurs­day’s elec­tion.

Po­lice said they ar­rested about 150 pro­test­ers in op­po­si­tion strongholds in the south­ern African coun­try, while one rul­ing party sup­porter was de­tained on Mon­day af­ter torch­ing a po­lice ve­hi­cle dur­ing cel­e­bra­tions.A rule in­tro­duced in Jan­uary says the win­ner of a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion can­not be sworn in if the vote is con­tested in a court, which has two weeks to de­cide on such a pe­ti­tion.

Wear­ing a white T-shirt with the vic­tory sym­bol and the words “I love peace” on it, the pres­i­dent told his sup­port­ers at a vic­tory rally in the cap­i­tal Lusaka: “We will have to wait be­fore I am sworn in be­cause I am told some peo­ple have gone to court. The courts of law are our crea­ture and so the courts should be given lat­i­tude to make de­ci­sions.”

Lungu won 50.35 per­cent of the vote against 47.63 per­cent for Hichilema.

Zam­bia has been one of Africa’s most sta­ble democ­ra­cies al­though there were skir­mishes dur­ing cam­paign­ing. The kwacha strength­ened 2.5 per­cent on Tues­day, in a sign in­vestors wel­comed an out­right win­ner in the elec­tion.

Lungu said there would be work in the next five years of his term in of­fice to re­vive the flag­ging econ­omy. “There is no time for a hon­ey­moon,” he said.

Hichilema, pop­u­larly known as HH, was not avail­able to com­ment. His UPND party ac­cused Lungu’s party of car­ry­ing out “a coup on Zam­bia’s demo­cratic process” in a state­ment re­leased late on Mon­day.

“We sub­mit­ted ev­i­dence be­fore the dec­la­ra­tion of the re­sults re­gard­ing the gross ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties that have taken place. That is why we will not ac­cept the re­sult,” the party said.

The UPND said on Satur­day data from its own par­al­lel count showed Hichilema beat­ing Lungu “with a clear mar­gin” with about 80 per­cent of votes counted. Mon­day’s re­sult means Hichilema has now lost five pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

The rul­ing party and the elec­toral com­mis­sion have re­jected the UPND’s charge.

The elec­tion was fought around the is­sues of ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment, mine closures, power short­ages and soar­ing food prices which Hichilema, an econ­o­mist and busi­ness­man, blamed on Lungu’s mis­man­age­ment.

But Lungu, whose gov­ern­ment has been talk­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund about financial aid to help plug its bud­get deficit, said he was do­ing his best to wean the econ­omy off its over-reliance on cop­per.

Robert Bes­sel­ing, head of the EXX Africa busi­ness risk in­tel­li­gence group said: “Lungu will strug­gle to se­cure con­ces­sions from the IMF... and may be forced to turn to Chi­nese in­vestors to bankroll a re­cov­ery of the cop­per-driven econ­omy.”

Chi­nese com­pa­nies have in­vested heav­ily in min­ing and other sec­tors over the last 10 years with in­vest­ment reach­ing $2.6 bil­lion in 2014, ac­cord­ing to data from the Chi­nese Em­bassy. — Reuters

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