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Zambia, President Edgar Lungu wins historic elections

Zambia went to the polls on the 11th of August, seeing the re-election of President Edgar Lungu. His main rival alleges the vote was fraudulent.

Incumbent President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF) secured 50.35 per cent of the vote in the elections held in Zambia on the 10th and 11th of August, just over the 50 per cent threshold needed to avoid a second ballot. His principal rival, Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND) – who alleges the elections were fraudulent and has brought the case to court –received 47.67 per cent of consensuses.

The presidential and parliamentary elections, which saw a total of nine presidential candidates compete against each other, was marked by a significant turnout of over 56 per cent. Around 6.7 million people were registered to vote with youths around 60 per cent.

Hakainde Hichilema
UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema casting his vote © Mbiya Hamuchenje

“We’re happy to see so many people coming to vote, this shows that Zambians understand the importance of elections and they value their democratic rights,” said Kyenga Cecile, chief election observer of the European Union’s Election Observation Mission.

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Election officials count ballot papers at a voting station in Lusaka © Mbiya Hamuchenje

Historic elections

For the first time a presidential candidate was required to get more than 50 per cent of the votes to be declared the winner. Should they have failed to get this portion of the vote, a second ballot would have taken place within 37 days.

The vote was historic also because it was the first time candidates had running mates. This is in order to avoid by-elections in case the president can’t continue their mandate. For example in the past decades two sitting presidents died whilst in office and without running mates elections had to be held again.

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Voters in Lusaka © Mbiya Hamuchenje

Political and economic instability

Opposition parties accused the PF of not being able to contain the economic crisis caused by a slump in copper prices, the country’s biggest source of revenue, with the country’s currency, the kwacha, losing value. In addition, droughts have triggered load-shedding (where localised blackouts are orchestrated to avoid a complete shutdown of the power grid).

The country experienced several instances of campaign violence a few weeks before the election, prompting the Electoral Commission of Zambia to halt campaigns in the capital Lusaka and in Namwala district: according to the police, at least three people were killed. In addition, 150 people have been arrested in protests against the election results. A lot is at stake and the country needs better law and order for the economy to stabilise. The new president faces a tough task tackling high costs of living and high rates of unemployment.

 

Featured image: Supporters of President Edgar Lungu hold up his portrait © Salim Dawood/Getty Images
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