LUKASA , Zambia, Aug. 15 (UPI) — Results in Zambia’s presidential election indicate a close race and a high voter turnout, as opposition party alleges fraud.
Incumbent President Edgar Lungu, 59, of the Patriotic Front Party holds a slim lead over challenger Hakainde Hichilema, 56, of the United Party for National Development in the nine-person race. With 132 of 156 constituencies reporting, Lungu has 50.1 percent of the vote to Hichilima’s 47.7 percent. The winner must obtain more than 50 percent of the votes to avoid a runoff.
The landlocked country in central Africa, a major producer of copper, has a reputation for political stability.
The UNPD accused Zambia’s Election Commission of bias favoring the PF, and demanded a recount of votes in the capital of Lukasa. Hichilema accused the commission Friday of conspiring with the PF to influence the election, a charge denied by the commission.
The commission responded by noting the slowness of the returns of Thursday’s election was caused by the high voter turnout and by the multitude of votes, for the presidency, parliament, mayors, local legislators and for an amendment to the national constitution.
Cecile Kyenge, a European Union observer of the election, said the commission was professional in its preparations for the vote, but did not address any perceived bias by state-run media toward the incumbent candidate.
Both candidates ran for the presidency in 2015 after President Michael Sata died in office, Lungu winning by 28,000 votes.