Zambia’s opposition party has written to the electoral commission demanding a verification of the results of last week’s presidential elections.

Opposition leader Michael Sata narrowly lost the vote to President Rupiah Banda, but has claimed that the election was rigged.

African regional election observers have said the poll was free and fair.

Mr Banda had been serving as the interim replacement for President Levy Mwanawasa, who died in August.

Mr Banda’s swearing-in ceremony was held just two hours after election officials said he had won by 40.1% to Mr Sata’s 38.1%.

The leader of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) said his priority was to fight poverty, and that he hoped to turn Zambia into an investment hub.

But Mr Sata has rejected the result, saying a “bunch of thieves” had stolen the vote.

The party has written to the electoral commission to ask for a verification of how the votes were tallied, and says it will also go to court to demand a full recount.

“Knowing how corrupt the [electoral commission] are, I do not think we are going to get much from them,” Mr Sata told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

“That’s why we now want to involve the courts of law.”

He claimed that the number of votes announced in one district was higher than the total population of that district.

Security was tight for the election.

Late on Saturday evening, riot police fired tear gas at Mr Sata’s supporters when they set fire to market stalls and threw stones in a crowded Lusaka slum.

Mr Banda will serve until 2011, when Mr Mwanawasa’s term would have ended.

Source: BBC