Zambia’s High Court on Friday rejected an application by the main opposition party to block President Edgar Lungu’s inauguration set for next week after last month’s contested election.
Opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) leader, Hakainde Hichilema, had petitioned the court to overturn a Constitutional Court decision not to give him more time to legally challenge Lungu’s re-election.
Reuters news agency quoted Hichilema as saying that the August 11 vote was rigged, a charge Lungu denies.
“The court has refused to block the inauguration. The High Court has no power to block a decision of a higher court,” Lungu’s lawyer Tutwa Ngulube told reporters.
Hichilema’s lawyer Keith Mweemba said the UPND would pursue the case in the Supreme Court.
Lungu has led the ruling Patriotic Front since his predecessor Michael Sata died in 2014. He won the presidency in January 2015, defeating Hichilema in their first election confrontation.
Zambia is Africa’s second-largest copper producer, but its economy has been hit by a slump in commodity prices, leading to mine closures and exacerbating its already high unemployment.
Voting began on Tuesday for the next president of Zambia, one of Africa’s most promising frontier markets, in what shaped up as a tight race between a populist lawyer and a wealthy economist.
Edgar Lungu, leader of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), is seen having a slight edge over main rival, Hakainde Hichilema, a businessman whose United Party for National Development (UPND) has won over the middle-class and investors.
The two candidates had promised to improve the economy and create jobs in the country.
The winner would serve out the remaining 18 months of Michael Sata’s term as Zambia is due to hold a general election in 2016.
Former President, Michael Sata, passed away in October 2014 and Vice President Guy Scott became acting President of Zambia.
Observers have said that the election has been largely peaceful.
Counting of the ballots would begin shortly after polls close with results due to be announced within 48 hours.
Zambia is Africa’s biggest copper producer after Democratic Republic of Congo. Its mining sector had experienced a boom in recent years with the economy averaging a 6 to 7 percent growth.
It however slowed to to 5.5 percent in 2014 from being one of the world’s best performing economies.