Zambia’s president must diversify the economy away from copper to tourism, hydropower, agriculture and other sectors to better the lives of Zambians. With the outcome of this latest election, just this may happen.
Zambia ruling Patriotic Front (PF) emerged victorious in the country’s highly contested presidential election, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) announced on Saturday around 10 pm.
PF presidential candidate Edgar Lungu garnered 48.33 percent of the total votes cast while his closest rival Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) garnered 46.67 percent of all votes, according to ECZ’s official results.
Lungu, who is also defense and justice minister, got 807,925 votes while Hichilema got 780,168 votes, indicating a difference of 27,757.
About 1,671,662 out of the 5.1 million registered voters turned up to vote, indicating a low turnout of 32.36 percent.
While the governing party said the election was transparent and reflected the will of the people, the opposition party has labeled it as fraud, with the opposition leader claiming that it has been stolen from him.
“A stolen election does not reflect the will of the people and is not going to deliver. As you know we’ve yet to hear the final few constituencies announced by the Electoral Commission of Zambia, however it is with deep regret that we now already know the predetermined result,” said Hichilema, the 52-year-old economist and wealth businessman who campaigned on the promise of turning around the economy.
But Davies Chama, the secretary-general of the governing party, told reporters immediately after Lungu was declared by acting chief justice Lombe Chibesakunda at the results center at the Mulungushi International Conference Center that the election reflects the wish of the people despite challenges faced.
“This election has shown true democracy and those who are claiming that the election is not free and fair are just alarmists, ” he said.
British High Commissioner to Zambia James Thorton said in an interview with reporters at the results center that Britain was happy with the way the country’s electoral body conducted the polls despite challenges.
“They had a short period to organize this election and despite the challenges we are confidence that the election has been free and fair and we have confidence in the election results that have been announced. There were numerous checks to prevent fraud because party agents were present at each polling station,” he said.
The British envoy said his government was ready to work with the new leader to spur development in the southern African nation.
The election held on Jan. 20 was 11 candidates standing but was marred by hiccups such as bad weather which affected the transportation of election materials and staff, forcing the electoral body to extend the election for another three days.
Lungu, 58, has succeeded late President Michael Sata who died in London last October after serving only three of his five-year term. He will be sworn-in on Sunday to become Zambia’s sixth president since the country got independence from Britain in 1964.
The rapid rise of the quiet Zambian lawyer to the country’s top job has shocked many in this southern African nation, with opposition candidates ridiculing him that he would not take the country anywhere when he openly said he will only follow his successor’s vision during campaigns.
Lungu rose to national attention in the political arena following the victory of the PF when Sata appointed him as a deputy minister in the Office of the Vice-President before elevating him to the position of Minister of Home Affairs.
However last year, Sata gave him two ministerial position of defense and justice as well as the secretary-general of the governing party. Sata later left Lungu to act as president when he left for medical treatment in London.
Lungu grew up on the Copperbelt Province and studied law at the country’s top university, the University of Zambia where he graduated in 1983.
His campaign was premised on continuing the legacy of his predecessor which includes continuing with various infrastructure projects. Lungu will only be in office for 18 months before a general election next year.