Zambia awaits election result after tense campaign

A Zambian man looks at his ballot paper ahead of voting as hundreds of people queue to vote at Kanyama Basic school voting station during in Lusaka the Zambian general elections. (AFP)
A Zambian man looks at his ballot paper ahead of voting as hundreds of people queue to vote at Kanyama Basic school voting station during in Lusaka the Zambian general elections. (AFP)

Lusaka - Zambians waited on Friday for presidential election results that could trigger dispute after a violence-tinged campaign between the two leading candidates in a country usually known for its relative stability.

Polling day on Thursday was peaceful, after weeks of clashes between rival supporters of President Edgar Lungu's Patriotic Front (PF) and Hakainde Hichilema's United Party for National Development (UPND).

Turnout was high, election officials said, as voters formed long queues nationwide to cast their ballots for the national assembly and local councillors as well as the presidency.

Lungu, who narrowly won office in a snap election last year, faced another strong challenge from wealthy businessman Hichilema in a field of nine candidates.

Less than 28 000 votes separated the two candidates in the 2015 ballot.

'Unprecedented' violence

Early results are expected late on Friday or Saturday, with the complete results due out by Sunday.

Constitutional changes mean the winner must now secure more than 50% of the vote, pointing to a possible second round run-off.

At least three people were killed during the campaign, with regular clashes erupting between PF and UPND activists.

The election commission described the unrest as "unprecedented", warning it had "marred Zambia's historic record of peaceful elections".

The commission was to hold a press conference on Friday in the capital Lusaka to update on the counting process.

Last month, campaigning in the city was halted for 10 days to reduce the violence.

But the skirmishes continued, including fighting in the streets near Hichilema's final election rally on Wednesday.

Hichilema had previously claimed that fraud denied him victory last year.

And this year, he said his campaign was suppressed by the authorities banning rallies, arresting party leaders and through biased state media coverage.

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