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Hichilema, Zambian businessman and opposition leader defeats president Lungu

By Paul Ejime

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The Zambian Electoral Commission on Monday declared tycoon and veteran opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, 59, as winner of the country’s August 12 presidential vote.

Hichilema scored more than 2.8 million votes against 1.8 million by outgoing President Edgar Lungu.

It was 6th time lucky for Hichilema, who lost the 2016 presidential contest to Lungu by about 100,000 votes.

But even before the announcement of the official results, Lungu had publicly denounced the latest poll as not “free and fair.”

He alleged that his ruling Patriotic Front supporters were intimidated or attacked in the opposition strongholds, eventhough international observers said that conditions during the electoral process favoured his ruling party.

President Lungu had also taken the unusual step of deploying the army and suspending internet communications during the election.

But the high voter turn-out, put at more than 70%, particularly by the youth and the use of technology, contributed to the decisive victory by Hichilema, who ran on the platform of the United Party for National Development (UPND), a 10-party Coalition.

Copper-rich Zambia, the land of pan-Africanist Statesman Mwalimu Kenneth Kaunda, who passed on recently, has some seven million registered voters from an estimated population of 19 million people.

Lungu, a former Justice and Defence Minister had served out the remaining term of President Michael Sata, who died suddenly in 2014.

He then began his full mandate as Zambia’s 6th president after narrowly defeating Hichilema in the 2016 vote.

But Lungu’s presidency was characterised by economic hardships, including high rate of inflation and youth unemployment, as well as government crackdown on the opposition.

Like most African countries, Zambia’s situation has been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, and president-elect Hichilema certainly has his job cut out for him.

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