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Zambia: Opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema wins presidential election as President Edgar Lungu falls

Opposition UPND party’s presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema waves to supporters after casting his ballot in Lusaka, Zambia, August 12, 2021 (PHOTO /Twitter)

A veteran opposition leader and former businessman, President-elect Hakainde Hichilema is now faced with turning around Zambia’s debt-laden economy.

Zambian opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema won Zambia’s presidential election, defeating incumbent Edwar Lungu, the southern African nation’s election commissionannounced early on Monday.

Hichilema secured more than 2.8 million votes, while Lungu was in second place with over 1.8 million votes in the vote held last Thursday. Hichilema, 59, had been leading in exit polls and preliminary election results released throughout the weekend.

Now, Hichilema faces the daunting task of turning around the economic fortunes of debt-laden Zambia.

Zambia, a copper-rich nation, defaulted on a $42.5 million sovereign debt payment in November.

Zambian voters look for change
Rising costs of living and the impact of the pandemic had led to frustration with Lungu’s rule. He had been in office since 2015.

Voters were also concerned about rising costs of living and crackdowns on dissent. Young Zambian’s often complain of a lack of opportunity.

A former business tycoon who entered politics, Hichilema, ran for the presidency for the sixth time this year. The 2021 election was his first victory, after he campaign was able to take advantage of dissatisfaction over Lungu’s handling of the economy.

During one of his final campaign speeches, Hichilema said, “It hurts to see citizens go to bed without food in such a country,” adding that Zambia’s rich natural resources have not translated to well-being for the population.

“Assets worth billions of dollars are yielding nothing… to better our lives,” he said.

Lungu says election was ‘unfair’
Hichilema has challenged Lungu three times previously for the presidency.

Lungu had cried foul before a winner was declared, claiming the elections were neither free nor fair due to alleged acts of violence at polling stations. He would have to approach Zambia’s Constitutional Court within a week to formally lodge a complaint.

Hichilema’s victory comes with the backing of ten opposition parties under the banner of United Party for National Development (UPND), the largest opposition party.

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