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Voting ends in Zambia’s tight presidential election
Published on 12-08-2016 - at 02:52' by BBC

Polling stations have closed in Zambia’s presidential and parliamentary elections following campaigning marred by clashes between rival supporters.

It is expected to be a tight race between President Edgar Lungu’s governing PF party and the opposition UPND led by Hakainde Hichilema.

For the first time, a presidential candidate must win more than 50% of the vote to avoid a run-off.

Mr Lungu won the last election by less than 28,000 votes.

Each of the nine presidential candidates has a running mate to avoid a presidential by-election if the president dies in office - which has happened twice in the last 10 years.

The BBC’s Akwasi Sarpong in the capital, Lusaka, say there was a high turnout at polling centres in the city.

Long, calm, orderly queues formed early in the morning and election monitors have not reported any complaints, he says.

There were five votes - for president, MPs, mayors, local councillors and an amendment to the constitution on changes to the bill of rights.

As the counting begins, Zambia’s electoral commission has urged political party supporters to remain calm after final results are announced.

Observers say Zambia’s struggling economy will be a key issue.

Plunging prices for copper, its main export, have closed mines and left thousands unemployed. With economic growth roughly halved, the country asked the International Monetary Fund for help earlier this year.

In addition, Zambia, like other parts of southern Africa, has been hit by a drought that the UN has described as the worst in 35 years.

The UPND (United Party for National Development) has accused President Lungu of presiding over the "collapse" of the economy. But the PF (Patriotic Front) says it has a plan to diversify the economy.

Nail polish allowed

During the last election, some women wearing nail varnish were forced to remove it before voting as polling officials said they would not be able to apply the indelible ink correctly.

But on Wednesday night, the electoral commission circulated posts on social media saying women with "painted nails and/or false nails" could vote.

Zambia’s fluid politics by Nomsa Maseko, BBC News, Lusaka

This is an election like no other. Each voter was given five ballot papers - presidential, parliamentary, mayoral, local government and a referendum. All of these to be decided on one day. The five ballot papers each represent a separate vote. They are orange, red, purple, black and tan.

The political landscape is fluid.There’s been a shifting of political allegiances which in other parts of the continent would be seen as a betrayal.

Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba is Hakainde Hichilema’s running mate for the United Party for National Development. But before this, he was defence minister in late Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front government.

While former Deputy President Guy Scott, whose wife is seeking a position as a lawmaker in Lusaka central constituency to replace her husband, has endorsed Edgar Lungu’s main rival Hakainde Hichilema.

And lastly, Mulenga Sata, son of the late President Sata has also defected to Mr Hichilema’s UPND.

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Some people had been queuing for two hours at polling stations in Lusaka

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