Fisticuffs halt Zambia vote verification

Lusaka - The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) on Thursday suspended the verification of votes cast in last week's disputed presidential election after supporters of new President Rupiah Banda and opposition leader Michael Sata traded punches.

State radio reported that a number of election workers got caught in the middle when fists started to fly at the hall where the verification was taking place.

Tensions are running high in Zambia, where the opposition Patriotic Front of Sata is refusing to recognize the outcome of last Thursday’s election. Banda won the vote narrowly, with Sata coming a close second.

The PF has accused the ECZ of rigging the election in Banda’s favour and begun court action to obtain a recount.

Thursday’s verification was a routine post-election exercise and not part of that request, ECZ spokesperson Chris Akufuna said. The process was suspended indefinitely.

Zambia was required to elect a new president after ex-leader Levy Mwanawasa died of a stroke in August. Banda was hastily sworn in after the election to serve out the remaining three terms in Mwanawasa’s second term.

He got 40,09 percent of the vote, against 38,13 percent for Sata. – Sapa-dpa

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