EU says violence regrettable but no effect on poll integrity

Zambia’s elections Tuesday were marred by “regrettable” violence in Lusaka, but the isolated unrest in the capital did not risk the overall integrity of the vote, the EU’s chief observer said.

Zambians cast their ballots in presidential, parliamentary and local polls Tuesday to choose their leaders for the next five years, but the vote was shaken by rioting in several poor neighbourhoods around the capital.

“According to the reports from our observers, there have been some disturbances” in three areas around Lusaka, Maria Muniz De Urquiza, head of the European Union’s election monitoring team in Zambia, told journalists.

“The polls have been delayed in some poll stations because of the destruction of electoral material due to the frustration of the people because the election material arrived late.

“But it has been very isolated incidents and we don’t have any more reports of problems…. Maybe there are various regrettable incidents, but not affecting the whole development of the elections across the country.”

Angry residents burned buses, smashed cars belonging to election officials and threw rocks at police in various parts of Lusaka as many polling stations opened late, in some cases because ballot papers had not arrived.

In Kanyama, a poor neighbourhood near central Lusaka, voters mobbed a truck delivering poll materials and destroyed reams of ballot papers it was carrying, apparently believing they were pre-marked and would be used to stuff ballot boxes.

“The police came and calmed down the incident,” Muniz said.

Police said they had arrested five people.

Election officials said polling stations that opened late would extend their hours beyond the 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) closing time, and that all voters in the queue before closing would be allowed to cast their ballots.

Muniz said no one would be disenfranchised by the turbulence.

“Everybody entitled to vote will have the right to exercise their vote,” she said

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