Zambian opposition leader wins presidential election

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Zambia Update

Hakainde Hichilema, the leader of the Zambian opposition party, was elected as the president of Africa’s second largest copper producer by completely defeating the current second largest copper producer in Africa, Edgar Lungu. The latter criticized the vote as “invalid”.

The Zambian Electoral Commission said on Monday that Hickilema won by more than 2.8 million votes against Lungu’s 1.8 million votes. Last week’s election was held during the country’s worst economic crisis in decades, including default Billions of dollars in debt.

Hichilema is a businessman who won the presidency in the sixth attempt, and he will have to act quickly to end the negotiations International Monetary Fund bailout And reached a deal with creditors to resolve more than 12 billion U.S. dollars in foreign debt that hindered economic recovery.

Hichilema’s National Development Coalition Party has a 59% majority, which will mark the third time Zambia has transferred power through the ballot box in decades of multi-party democracy.

In a statement on Saturday, Lungu, who has been president since 2015, called the election “unfree or unfair” and said that his ruling Patriotic Front is considering its next move. He claimed that the votes in the three opposition strongholds were “featured by violence and invalidated the entire exercise.”

His party may challenge the court, but analysts say that the magnitude of its failure makes legal bids unlikely to succeed.

Lungu said the agents of his party were expelled from observing the vote and attacked by the opposition. But election observers from the Zambian church said that these agents appeared in almost all polling stations.

Observers added that political violence in elections has become “disturbingly common”, but the level of violence among ruling party officials is twice that of members of the Hitchlema Party.

Hichilema’s UPND stated that Lungu is carrying out “desperate last action” to stay in power. In a joint statement, other opposition parties called on the president to admit defeat and stated that a legitimate attempt to postpone the result would be an “abuse of court procedures.”

Before the election, analysts and activists pointed out that the Lungu Party’s strict control over election activities has almost banned gatherings under the coronavirus. Pandemic restrictions And there is very little broadcasting time for opposition parties.

The government deploys troops Before the polls And close access to social media platforms (such as WhatsApp) on the day of voting. According to the EU Ombudsman, the election was affected by “abuse of power” and “abuse of national resources”.

Despite these obstacles, it is estimated that two-thirds of voters voted on polling day, and a high court judge lifted the social media ban on Saturday. In the past, the Zambian army refused to support lost incumbents.

The 59-year-old Hichilema is called “HH” or “Bally” by young Zambians. He narrowly lost to Lungu in the 2016 ballot, which was compromised due to suspicion of voting manipulation.

Zambia’s sovereign debt was under pressure even before it entered its first recession in decades during the turmoil of the pandemic last year.nation Breach of contract After the Lungu government borrowed huge amounts of funds to fund infrastructure, the 2020 bond payment.National takeover Copper mine Even if copper prices rise this year, Lungu’s leadership has backfired.

Hichilema has pledged to give priority to restructuring negotiations with creditors, which must include investors in defaulting US dollar bonds, which account for about a quarter of foreign debt.

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