Zambia’s opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has been elected as the country’s seventh president after winning more than 2.8 million votes in the presidential election.
The 59-year-old experienced politician defeated his long-time opponent Lungu in a grueling campaign amid a landscape of deteriorating living conditions. It is his sixth bid for the presidency and the third time he has opposed President Lungu. In 2016, he was defeated by Lungu by about 100,000 votes.
Lungu, who has been in power for six years, faced voters enraged by increasing living expenses, the country’s high debt to China, and repressive government policies.
Lungu started crying foul even before a winner was announced, saying that the election was neither free nor fair owing to reports of violence in Hichilema’s traditional strongholds.
He says that his party’s voting operatives were assaulted and harassed when visiting polling locations. However, as the results were being tabulated, street celebrations erupted in sections of the capital Lusaka, with hundreds of people dressed in party regalia waving flags and gathering outside his home.
International election monitors praised the open and peaceful conduct of the elections but criticized limitations on freedom of assembly and movement during campaigning. Security personnel prevented the opposition leader from campaigning in many locations, including the strategically important Copperbelt Province, claiming violations of coronavirus measures and public order legislation.