LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) — Zambia's president has been re-elected in a closely contested vote over the main opposition leader, the country's election panel said Monday. However, opposition allegations of polling irregularities raised the prospect of continued tension after a campaign marred by street clashes.
President Edgar Lungu of the ruling Patriotic Front party received 1,860,877 votes, giving him just over 50 percent of the votes and therefore enough to avoid a runoff election, the election commission said. The main challenger, Hakainde Hichilema of the opposition United Party for National Development, received 1,760,347 votes.
Hichilema's party is looking at the possibility of lodging a protest with Zambia's constitutional court over alleged vote tampering in Thursday's election, said Jack Mwiimu, a senior party official.
Many jubilant supporters of Lungu celebrated on a major road in Lusaka, the capital. Some carried a mock coffin for Hichilema with a sign that read: "Rest in peace."
Lungu, who took office in January 2015 after the death of President Michael Sata, won a tight election over Hichilema last year.
Zambia's record of peaceful transitions of power had been held up as a democratic model in Africa. International observers have urged Zambians to direct any complaints about the election process to the courts, rather than taking to the streets.
"In this tense and competitive climate it is essential that the security forces respect the constitution and remain impartial and professional in the discharge of their duties," said Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general.
Political tension comes as Zambia's economy struggles, partly because of the fall in prices of copper, its main export. Zambia is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout deal that could entail austerity measures.