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Opposition wins Zambia’s Presidential ballot landslide

By Terhemba Daka (Abuja) and Silver Nwokoro (with agency report)
17 August 2021   |   3:50 am
Zambia opposition leader, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, has been declared the winner of last week’s keenly-contested presidential election, after he defeated the incumbent, President Edgar Lungu....

President elect Hakainde Hichilema gives a press briefing at his residence in Lusaka, on August 16, 2021. – Zambian business tycoon and veteran opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema scored a landslide victory on August 16, 2021 in bitterly-contested presidential elections. (Photo by Patrick Meinhardt / AFP)

Buhari congratulates Hichilema as observers hail poll

Zambia opposition leader, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, has been declared the winner of last week’s keenly-contested presidential election, after he defeated the incumbent, President Edgar Lungu, by more than one million votes.

With 155 of 156 constituencies reporting, official results showed that Hichilema had garnered 2,810,757 votes against Lungu’s 1,814,201.

“I, therefore, declare Hakainde Hichilema President-elect of the Republic of Zambia,” electoral commission chairman, Justice Esau Chulu, said in a televised address.

The 59-year-old opposition politician gave his long-time rival, Lungu, a bloody nose amid deteriorating standards of living.

He contested the top job six times; three against 64-year-old Lungu. In 2016, he narrowly lost to Lungu by about 100,000 votes.

Lungu, who has been in office for six years, faced the electorate amid growing resentment about rising living costs and crackdowns on dissent in the southern African country.

Hichilema enjoyed the backing of 10 opposition parties at last Thursday’s vote under the banner of the largest opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).

The incumbent had begun crying foul before a winner was declared, claiming the election was neither free nor fair due to violence reported in what are traditionally Hichilema’s stronghold.

In a statement, the President’s office alleged that his party’s polling agents were attacked and chased away from voting stations.

But even as results were still being tallied, street celebrations erupted in parts of the capital, Lusaka, with several hundreds in party regalia waving flags and rallying outside Hichilema’s house, AFP reported. Others danced and honked car horns.

On Sunday, the President-elect, popularly known by his initials ‘HH’ or Bally (slang for dad), called for peace.

“With victory in sight, I’d like to ask for calm from our members and supporters. We voted for a better Zambia that’s free from violence and discrimination. Let us be the change we voted for and embrace the spirit of ubuntu (humanity) to love and live together harmoniously.

“We discussed a wide range of issues bordering on the welfare of our people. We remain committed to ensuring a united and prosperous Zambia for all,” he wrote on Twitter.

Parties that backed Hichilema on Sunday scoffed at Lungu’s “unsubstantiated” claims of a marred vote, and urged him to concede.

MEANWHILE, President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated the President-elect, Hichilema, on his victory at the August 12 general election.

Buhari applauded the people of Zambia for coming out in their numbers to exercise their civic rights, signposting that the prospect of a united, stable and prosperous Africa lies in the power of the people to freely elect their leaders.

The Nigerian President also commended President Lungu for accepting the outcome of the election and a peaceful transfer of power, noting that the patriotic disposition deserved the praise of all lovers of democracy.

Highlighting the close and historic relationship between Nigeria and Zambia, the Nigerian leader looks forward to working with the Zambian President-elect for the peace, development and prosperity of both nations.

ALSO, international election observers have commended the transparent and peaceful organisation of the polls, but condemned the restrictions on freedom of assembly and movement during campaigning.

Security forces had blocked Hichilema from campaigning in several areas, including the strategic Copper Belt Province, citing breaches of Coronavirus Disease safety measures and a Public Order Act.

Lungu also deployed the military following pre-election clashes and reinforced the army presence in three provinces after two deaths were reported on election day.

Social media access, restricted in the capital Lusaka just as Hichilema cast his vote, was restored on Saturday following a court order. Turnout at the polls was estimated at just over 70 per cent.