FILE - Polling station workers are seen guarding ballot boxes following presidential elections in Lusaka, Zambia, Jan. 21, 2015.
FILE - Polling station workers are seen guarding ballot boxes following presidential elections in Lusaka, Zambia, Jan. 21, 2015.

Zambian opposition parties denounced the choice of a Dubai-based company to print election ballots, and suggested that corruption and plans for vote-rigging played a role.

The parties reacted after Zambia's electoral commission announced Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing had won the contract to print the ballots that will be used in the August 11 general election.

Jack Mwiimbu, head of legal affairs for the United Party for National Development (UPND), accused the electoral commission of trying to rig the polls for the governing Patriotic Front.  He says the party has proof of some Zambians celebrating after the electoral commission announced the contract.  

He also questioned the cost of the contract -- $3.5 million, a figure he says is $2 million higher than what the government paid previously.

“Zambia is undergoing severe economic and financial stress," he said. "The Zambian government has no capacity to pay for that particular bid.  They are relying on donors and the donors have also expressed their disquiet.”

Mwiimbu says the UPND strongly doubts the upcoming polls will be credible, and says the commission should rescind its decision.

The leader of another opposition party, the Forum for Democracy and Development, said the electoral commission’s decision could create tension and chaos.

Local media quoted Edith Nawakwi as saying “Zambia is at peace but your position is pushing us in a direction which we the Zambian people are totally uninterested. Can you for once, step backwards, step backwards and listen to the people? This is our country, it does not belong to the [Electoral Commission of Zambia], and it does not belong to government.”

For Zambia's recent elections, ballot papers have been printed by a company in South Africa. The opposition parties contend it is cheaper to print the papers there -- and that there have been no complaints about the company's work.

Electoral commission chairman Essau Chulu said those opposed to the decision failed to provide proof that Al Ghurair has engaged in malpractices in other countries, including Uganda, where the company printed ballots for the elections in March.

Opposition parties accused Ugandan authorities of rigging those polls to favor Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front party have dismissed the UPND concerns and accusations against the electoral commission as unjustified.

They said it appears the UPND and other opposition parties are setting the stage for excuses, because in their view the parties are going to lose the presidential vote to incumbent President Edgar Lungu.