Zambian court allows more time for poll challenge

Hakainde Hichilema. (AFP)
Hakainde Hichilema. (AFP)

Lusaka - Zambia's constitutional court gave the country's main opposition leader two more days Saturday to present a petition challenging last month's disputed re-election of President Edgar Lungu.

The court had on Friday given Hakainde Hichilema, who was defeated in the August 11 vote, only two hours, prompting his lawyers to say they would no longer represent him.

On Saturday it asked Hichilema, leader of the opposition United Party for National Development, to seek legal representation and the matter would continue on Monday.

"This matter has to be heard and each party will have two days and the respondents will also have two days," said constitutional court presidential Hildah Chibomba.

Lungu won the election by a narrow margin according to official results, garnering 50.3% or about 100 000 votes. Hichilema, a businessman vying for the presidency for a fifth time, won 47.6% but immediately claimed the poll was rigged.

After the disputed election Lungu moved to assure supporters that a new government would work to improve the welfare of Zambians grappling with high inflation and rising food prices.

A drop in copper prices of almost one-third from their peak in February 2011 has resulted in thousands of job losses in the mining industry, where most companies are owned by foreign, notably Chinese, investors.

Zambia previously enjoyed a stellar period of growth, peaking at 10.3% in 2010.

Despite the legal challenge to his re-election, Lungu, head of the Patriotic Front, has vowed to hit the ground running.

"For the next five years, it will be total work, there will be no honeymoon," Lungu told supporters at a rally shortly after his re-election.

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