Zambia's Lungu to be sworn in; opposition misses deadline for election challenge

September 5, 2016 7:03 AM EDT

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By Chris Mfula

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia will press on with swearing in its president, Edgar Lungu, for another five-year-term next week, after the opposition missed a deadline to challenge his re-election, a senior official said on Monday.

Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema had filed a petition in constitutional court last month, saying the Aug. 11 vote was rigged and Lungu's victory should be annulled. But he missed a Friday deadline to present evidence to back up his charge, and the top court ruled on Monday not to extend the time limit.

Hichilema's UPND party said it rejected the ruling.

"We wish to put it on record that we have not lost an election, neither have we lost the petition which was before the Constitutional Court," the party said in a statement.

"We have rejected the court ruling in that the judgment was passed on an application from the respondents without allowing us to respond," it said, without outlining its next move.

Lungu, who won 50.35 percent of the vote according to the official results, will take the oath of office on Tuesday next week, later than the original Aug. 23 date, cabinet secretary Roland Msiska said.

Lungu has been the head of the ruling Patriotic Front since its leader, Michael Sata, died in 2014. He won the presidency the following year, defeating Hichilema in their first electoral confrontation.

Zambia is Africa's second-largest copper producer, and slumping commodity prices have afflicted it with mine closures, rising unemployment, power shortages and soaring food prices.

(Writing by James Macharia, editing by Larry King)

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