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Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu said he would seek parliament’s approval for declaring a state of threatened emergency in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer, as a political crisis deepens in the country.

In a national address on Wednesday, Mr Lungu said that a spate of suspicious fires at public buildings were leading to a situation “which, if allowed to continue, may lead to a state of public emergency,” forcing him to invoke measures under the constitution.

Mr Lungu said that the perpetrators of attacks including a fire at the country’s biggest market in the capital, Lusaka, were trying to undermine his government. “I will not tolerate this lawlessness,” he added.

Mr Lungu said he would table his proclamation for approval in parliament, where his ruling Patriotic Front has a majority as several MPs of the opposition UPND are suspended.

Zambia, long established as one of southern Africa’s most stable democracies, has been in worsening crisis since Mr Lungu’s narrow victory in elections last year was disputed by his rival Hakainde Hichilema, the UPND leader.

Earlier this year Mr Hichilema was charged with treason and jailed after an incident where his motorcade allegedly refused to give way to Mr Lungu’s convoy. His trial continues.

Tensions are also increasing as Zambia’s economy has come under pressure from weakness in copper prices, with the government currently negotiating an IMF loan.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.

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