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LUSAKA (AFP) — Zambia’s presidential candidates have agreed for electoral authorities to keep 600,000 extra ballot papers, despite their fears of vote rigging in this month’s election, an official said Wednesday.

The Electoral Commission of Zambia summoned the candidates to an emergency meeting to ease their fears over the extra ballots printed for the October 30 poll, ECZ spokesman Cris Akufuna said.

Representatives of all four candidates attended the meeting to voice their concerns about possible vote rigging.

But after the talks they accepted that the extra papers would be used only if voters mismarked ballots and needed a new one, Akufuna told AFP.

“The meeting resolved the issue of the extra ballot papers. It was agreed that they be distributed (to polling stations) as has always been the practice,” Akufuna said.

The presidential polls to replace late president Levy Mwanawasa are being contested by four candidates, including acting president Rupiah Banda who is running on the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) ticket.

The others are main opposition leader Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front, Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) and Godfrey Miyanda of the Heritage Party.

On Tuesday, a Zambian court ruled that electoral authorities can use a two-year-old voter roll in the election, saying it was impossible to update it before the polls.

The current roll was prepared for the last elections in 2006, and lists 3.9 million voters, out of the population of about 12 million. The opposition argues that the register does not represent the majority of eligible voters.

Copyright © 2008 AFP. All rights reserved.

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