Zambia has reported pockets of violence that analysts say could spiral as the country awaits the outcome of a court petition filed by opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema saying the vote was rigged. Some analysts say both sides should consider an all inclusive leadership approach to avoid dividing the country, but some want focus to turn back towards repairing the economy.
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA (AUGUST 22, 2016) (REUTERS) – A disputed election result in Zambia has the potential to divide the country and cause unrest, analysts warn.
President Edgar Lungu narrowly won the August 11 poll and his opponent Hakainde Hichilema has filed court papers to challenge the result, claiming the vote was rigged.
Lungu’s inauguration has been postponed because a rule introduced in January says the winner of a presidential vote cannot be sworn in if the vote is contested in a court, which will have two weeks to decide on such a petition.
In the petition, Hichilema, an economist and businessman and an old rival of Lungu, says that the president did not win the election legally as he failed to score more than the number of votes required to be declared the winner.
Lungu won 50.35 percent of the vote against 47.63 percent for Hichilema, according to the electoral commission.
Local reports said there have been cases of violence in some parts of the country carried out by supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party as well as the opposition’s United Party for National Development (UPND), targeting each other and public property.
On Monday (August 22), Zambia’s broadcasting regulator suspended the licenses of three private broadcasters, saying they had posed a risk to peace and stability during this month’s presidential election.
Lee Habasonda is a political analyst.
“It does not augur well for the stability and consensus building that is required in a democracy. So from where I stand I think that we need to consider either a mixed member proportional representation or outright have a proportional representation system that reflects everyone who has participated in the election to participate in national affairs, failure to which, we risk having this country divided into two parts,” he said.
Zambia is in the throes of an economic slump due to depressed commodity prices with mine closures, rising unemployment, power shortages and soaring food prices.
Lungu promised to control spending and act to boost economic growth in Africa’s second-largest copper producer.
Some in the capital Lusaka have shrugged off the opposition petition and say they want the president to get on with fixing the economy.
“The prices they are so high and I pray that things they just come down a bit. We talk about mealie meal (maize meal), we talk about groceries so we just pray that he do his best,” said businesswoman, Naomi Sandwe.
“I am happy that the ruling party has been voted back into office. I am hopeful that with the President and the various empowerment programs like the youth empowerment program, my life will become better because I should be able to benefit from these kinds of things,” said Mulenga Kabamba, a cobbler.
Before the polls, Hichilema had raised concerns that the voting would not be free and fair. He accused police of blocking several of his rallies and state media coverage of being biased in favour of the ruling party.
The government denied the claims.