Zambia Elections: Opposition Leader Hichilema Takes Early Lead

Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has taken an early lead in that country’s presidential election.

The copper-rich country voted for Parliamentarians and the president on the 12th of this month in an election described by the incumbent president Edgar Lungu as “not free and fair.”

Results from 15 of the country’s 156 constituencies gave Hichilema 171 604 votes versus the 110 178 garnered by Lungu, who is running for a second five-year term.

Those 15 constituencies include perceived Lungu strongholds, suggesting that Hichilema has gained ground since the last elections in 2016, when he lost by a slim margin in elections marred by allegations of rigging.

The first results had initially been expected on Friday. They were delayed after counting went on overnight due to heavy voter turnout and because political parties objected to the electoral commission’s initial figures in one constituency, which differed from those from monitors on the ground.

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An estimated 7 million people registered to vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections in the country, Africa’s second-biggest copper producer.

The Electoral Commission of Zambia allowed the last polling station to remain open until 5 a.m. on Friday to give people who had queued for hours an opportunity to cast their ballots. The election also saw violence in three regions and restrictions on internet access.

In Chawama township in Lusaka, Lungu’s parliamentary constituency before he became president, residents said supporters of both Lungu and Hichilema both claimed victory and celebrated throughout the night.

Lungu’s ruling Patriotic Front party said its vote tally showed a huge turnout in its strongholds and it was confident of victory.

Hichilema who is running for the United Party for National Development Friday took to Twitter to announce that early data suggested that he would win the race.

More: Al Jazeera