Zambian candidates discuss vote rigging fears

October 15, 2008 12:00 am

, LUSAKA, October 15 – Electoral authorities in Zambia Wednesday summoned presidential candidates for an emergency meeting to discuss allegations of vote rigging ahead of this month’s presidential election.

The meeting by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) was called after the opposition rejected the printing of 600,000 extra ballot papers for the October 30 elections, an official said.

"The issue of the extra ballot papers will be discussed today (Wednesday) by all the four candidates," said Brown Kasaro, a deputy director of the ECZ.

The presidential polls to replace late president Levy Mwanawasa are being contested by four candidates including acting president Rupiah Banda who is running on the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) ticket.

The others are main opposition leader Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front, Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) and Godfrey Miyanda of the Heritage Party.

The opposition parties have refused to verify the ballots, alleging that the printing of additional papers was meant to rig the vote in favour of Banda.

"We still insist that the extra ballot papers should be destroyed," said Samuel Mukupa of the main opposition group.

The ECZ has defended its decision to print additional ballot papers saying it is a standard practice worldwide, allowing voters to get fresh papers in case of a mistake when voting.

On Tuesday, a Zambian court ruled that electoral authorities can use a two-year-old voter roll in the election, saying it was impossible to update it before the polls.

The current roll was prepared for the last elections two years ago, and lists 3.9 million voters, out of the population of about 12 million. The opposition argues that the register does not represent the majority of eligible voters.



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