zambia - elections

Zambia waits for election results as soldiers patrol streets, internet shut down

Zambia is counting votes after a tightly contested general election
Zambia is counting votes after a tightly contested general election MARCO LONGARI AFP

Zambians are waiting for results on Friday after a tight race for the top job following reports of clashes during Thursday’s polls, as well as an internet shutdown.

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This is the third time incumbent Edgar Lungu, 64, faces off against the opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema, 59.

While provisional results started to come in on Friday, the final results are expected by Sunday, a change from the lengthy tabulation time after the 2016 election.

Some 96 percent of polling stations were up and running on time, according to the local monitors Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG), who said the majority of polling stations ran smoothly.

Long lines meant that some voters cast their ballots nine hours after the 6pm poll closing time.

While Zambia is considered a peaceful nation, there were multiple acts of violence on polling day— from Lungu’s party, the Patriotic Front chairperson for North-West Province was killed, and the former Lusaka mayor, also from PF party, was stabbed.

Lungu blamed Hichilema’s party, the United Party for National Development (UPND) for the violence, while UPND called their comments a distraction tactic.

Scuffles occurred at several polling stations after accusations that some people were carrying pre-marked ballot papers in their bags.

“Overall, though, incidents of harassment or intimidation were reported at 2% of polling stations, while incidents of violence at 3% of polling stations during voting and counting,” according to the CCMG statement.

Troops, no internet

The president reinforced troops in three provinces for the vote, claiming that the violence there "effectively rendered the elections … not free and fair".

Lungu’s party has been claiming it is in the lead.

Hichilema came out on social media on Friday with a positive message for his supporters, saying: “Change is here.”

Zambians have been blocked from using the internet since election day, according to Netblocks, an international internet rights monitor.

The country has been plagued by the high cost living, which has dulled the previous enthusiasm some voters had for Lungu.

His crackdown on human rights and the freedom of assembly has also come into play for voters.

Some are worried that the results could result in violence, as the margin between the top two candidates is close.

The results in Lusaka, the capital of 3.3 million people, and the central Copperbelt Province, site of the world’s largest copper production, will determine the vote.

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