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Police arrest 133 protesters in Zambia after disputed vote

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo, taken on August 10, 2016, shows Zambian President Edward Lungu looking on during his a presidential campaign rally in Lusaka, Zambia. (By AFP)

Zambian police have detained 133 protesters opposing the recent re-election of incumbent President Edgar Lungu amid accusations by the main opposition party of vote rigging, police say.

On Monday, Lungu was re-elected to another five-year term with 50.35 percent of the votes while his main rival and opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, of the United Party for National Development (UPND), received 47.63.

“They targeted perceived supporters of the ruling party, destroying their property,” Southern Province’s police chief Godwin Phiri said Tuesday, referring to the protesters.

“It is like this was well-planned and they were just waiting for the winner to be declared. Calm has now returned following the arrests,” he said.

The UPND had rejected the results, accusing the electoral commission of vote tampering in favor of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) in the Thursday election. It also said it will appeal the result at the Constitutional Court.

“The PF has effected a coup on Zambia’s democratic process,” Hichilema, the opposition leader, said late on Monday.

“We submitted evidence before the declaration of the results regarding the gross irregularities that have taken place. That is why we will not accept the result,” he added.

The accusation was rejected by the PF and the electoral commission.

The election contest was focused on the economy after months of climbing unemployment, mine closures, power shortages as well as surging food prices in Africa’s second largest copper producer.

The incumbent president has been in office for just 19 months. He took power last year when he beat Hichilema by less than 28,000 votes in a snap election following the death of former President Michael Sata.

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