Zambia's president has been re-elected in a closely contested vote that the opposition claims was rigged.
The electoral commission said incumbent Edgar Lungu, of the ruling Patriotic Front won more than 50 percent of the vote defeating his main rival, Hakainde Hichilema, of the United Party for National Development (UPND), who took just under 48 percent.
Election commission chief Esau Chulu said Lungu was "duly elected" after releasing the final results of Thursday's vote.
Members of Hichilema's party allege vote tampering in the election and say they will appeal the results to Zambia's Constitutional Court.
Deputy UPND spokesman Cornelius Mweetwa, a member of parliament said “What we have seen in this election is robbery, an election where the people’s will has been stolen. Yet, although it has been stolen, it is a step in the direction of a better election tomorrow because it has exposed the weaknesses of our rules and laws that govern electioneering in Zambia.”
A legal specialist for the opposition UPND told reporters "We have evidence with us to the effect that the votes for Hakainde Hichilema have been deliberately reduced in collusion with the Electoral Commission of Zambia." He said there is a pattern of several thousand missing votes for Hichilema in each voting district.
Mumbi Phiri, deputy secretary general of the PF, pointed at the demographics of the vote to show why she thinks the UPND accusations of cheating are off-base.
“We have 10 provinces. There is no way you can claim victory if you have won five or four provinces. For them, they have only won in three provinces. So how can he win an election? Mr. Hichilema is a dreamer. He has just lost, and if I were him I would gracefully say congratulations to the winner,” Phiri said.
In any case, Mweeta said that challenging the results would be tough, since President Lungu appointed the Constitutional Court judges that would oversee the case. He said he would push on with the challenge, though, because his supporters would be disappointed if he didn't. “Justice demands that we stand for what is right," he said.
In a statement, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said "he reminds all parties, especially political leaders and their supporters, of their responsibility to reject violence and to refrain from the use of inflammatory and incendiary language. He also reminds them to resolve differences or disputes through constitutional means and in line with international norms and standards."
The Zambia election campaign was marked by weeks of clashes between supporters of the rival parties, which saw at least three people killed.
Lungu has served since January 2015, following the death of President Michael Sata. He defeated Hichilema in a snap election called last year, winning by just 28,000 votes.
The political tension in Zambia is accompanied by a struggling economy, largely because of a fall in the price of copper, the country's main export. Zambia is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for financial assistance.