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Africa

What next for Zambia?

President Edgar Lungu's election victory leaves Zambia divided. The opposition is refusing to accept the results and wants to challenge them in court. The country's south has been hit by violence.

A day after the results of last week's disputed polls were released, opposition supporter Loveness Malambo was still struggling to come to terms with the outcome.

"We are very hurt, we are very sad. The Patriotic Front has stolen this election from us in broad daylight," she told a DW correspondent in the capital Lusaka.

The Patriotic Front (PF) - President Edgar Lungu's party- had earlier dismissed such claims. "We have taught them [the opposition] a lesson and this is the end of the UPND [United Party for National Development]," PF Secretary-General Davis Chama told AFP news agency.

'Regional divide is dangerous'

Election results released Monday saw President Lungu carrying the day with 50.35 percent of the vote. His main challenger Hakainde Hichilema came second with 47.63 percent. Voting patterns indicate that the country is split in two: While the north and the east voted overhelmingly for the incumbent, the opposition came first in the south.

"It's going to be an important issue for Zambia to get over this political and regional divide," Chatham House Zambia analyst Knox Chitiyo told DW.

Tensions were simmering Tuesday, with opposition supporters going on the rampage in Zambia's south, according to the police.

A red poster with the portrait of opposition candidate Hichilema Copyright: Getty Images/AFP/G. Guercia

Opposition leader Hakinde Hichilema's party maintains the polls were rigged

Violence and arrests in the south

"We have apprehended 151 UPND party caders who ran amok and damaged property," police spokesman Ray Hammonga told journalists in the capital Lusaka. Most of the attacks targeted houses and cars belonging to suspected ruling party supporters, he said.

"Currently the situation has been brought under control. We have intensified both foot and motorized patrols in the province," Hammonga added.

Analysts warn that continuing tensions and a lengthy political stalemate would have a negative impact on Zambia. The southern African country is already one of the world's poorest nations.

"They need to calm things down," Chitiyo told DW, referring to both Lungu and Hichilema. Zambia's economy already slowed last year, with a recorded GDP growth of 3.6 percent. Thousands of jobs have been lost in mining after the price of copper, Zambia's key export earner, fell.

No evidence of systematic rigging

The opposition UPND is refusing to concede defeat and maintains its claim that the government rigged the elections.

"We submitted evidence before the declaration of the results regarding the gross irregularities that have taken place," Hichilema said in a statement late Monday. President Lungu's Patriotic Front party had effected "a coup on Zambia's democratic proccess," he added.

A man counts ballot papers in front of an audience Copyright: Getty Images/AFP/D. Salim

Election observers did not find any indications of systematic rigging

The opposition is expected to challenge the results in Zambia's constitutional court this week.

But so far there is no evidence on the table to suggest its claims are true.

"There are certainly concerns about the election process which Hichilema and others have raised. There is the question of media access and there were one or two constituencies where there were issues around counting," analyst Chitiyo told DW.

"But for them to prove systematic and wholesale rigging will be a tough task," he added.

Biased media coverage

European Union election observers largely gave the polls a clean bill of health.

"The conduct of voting was positively assessed in almost all polling stations observed. Voting procedures were well implemented. The overall assessment of the closing and counting process, though protracted, was good or very good in most polling stations observed," the team said on Saturday.

It, however, did note undue restrictions during the election campaign and biased media coverage of the opposition. The EU team also did not get access to the verification of results at the national results center.

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