EDGAR LUNGU, the candidate of the ruling Patriotic Front party, looks set to become Zambia’s new president after opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema conceded defeat on Saturday while charging electoral fraud.
A difference of 13 016 votes separated the two candidates with ballots from 146 of the 150 constituencies so far counted and verified by the Electoral Commission. Lungu had garnered 789 848 votes while Hichilema had 776 832.
The four remaining constituencies that had not declared a result were all ruling party strongholds and were expected to opt for Lungu.
“A stolen election does not reflect the will of the people and is not going to deliver,” Hichilema said as he conceded, adding, “It is with deep regret that we now already know the predetermined result.”
Electoral Commission chairperson Ireen Mambilima dismissed Hichilema’s claims, saying the commission had conducted a clean election after all participating parties had been involved in the process from the printing of ballot papers and their verification to the casting and counting of votes.
The election took place on Tuesday, but the delivery of ballots to some districts had been hampered by heavy rains, thereby delaying the final result, which had been expected on Wednesday.
Observers had said it would be a tight race between Lungu and Hichilema in the election held three months after the unexpected death of the former head of state, Michael Sata.
The interim president, Guy Scott, was unable to run because his parents are Scottish and not Zambian. He had been the country’s first white president since its independence from Britain in 1964.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and other foreign dignitaries arrived in the capital, Lusaka, Friday for Lungu’s inauguration as Zambia’s sixth president at a ceremony due to be held on Sunday in Heroes Stadium.
The new president faces a difficult task: Despite the fact that the country possesses one of the world’s largest supplies of copper and, therefore, enjoys relatively strong economic growth, the majority of its 14 million people live in abject poverty.
The World Bank estimated that 70% of the population of the Southern African country live on about €1 per day.