Social media and messaging apps, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter, appeared to be shutdown in Zambia on Thursday as the country voted in presidential and parliamentary elections, according to a Facebook spokesperson.
“We’ve looked into this and can confirm that there seems to be a social media shutdown affecting our apps and others, like Twitter,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN.
CNN could not independently verify the social media blackout. The Office of the President and the Zambian government didn’t immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia reported “unprecedented” levels of turnout in Thursday’s presidential and parliamentary elections, with long lines remaining at many polling stations at 6pm local time [12pET] when voting was due to end. The commission has said that special “contingency measurs” will allow those still waiting in line to cast their vote.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu is seeking re-election, with businessman Hakainde Hichilema his main challenger. Lungu on Thursday complained of “mayhem” in three provinces which, he said, had effectively rendered the elections in those regions neither free nor fair.
“How can you talk about free and fair elections when our opponents have taken this election as war?” Lungu said. He accused the opposition of orchestrating “brutal incidents” and wanting to “rule Zambia by force.”
In a statement issued from the Presidency, Lungu said he had ordered the army to reinforce the troop presence in the Western, North-Western, and Southern provinces.
Hichilema, his main challenger, said in a statement on Facebook, “As today’s unprecedented turnout continues to make headlines across the world, and as the queues of voters stretch late into the night, we want to take this moment to thank our colleagues at the ECZ for keeping the polling stations open for as long as it takes to cast every single vote, and to thank those men and women in uniform, loyal to the constitution, for their ongoing efforts in the crucial hours and days ahead.”
If neither candidate wins 50% of the vote in the first round, a second round will be held within 37 days. The full results from the first round are not expected until Sunday.