Business tycoon Hakainde Hichilema on Sunday looked to be on the cusp of winning a hotly-contested presidential election in debt-burdened but copper-rich Zambia as final votes were counted.
With 128 of 156 constituencies reporting, official results showed Hichilema on 2,324,847 votes, or 82 percent of the constituencies counted so far, ahead of Lungu who had 1,464,681 votes.
This is the sixth time opposition politician Hichilema, who is 59, has run for the top job and the third time he has challenged 64-year-old President Edgar Lungu.
Hichilema enjoyed the backing of 10 opposition parties at Thursday’s vote under the banner of the largest opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).
In a statement issued through the president’s office, he alleged that his party’s polling agents were attacked and chased from voting stations.
‘Victory in sight’ –
“With victory in sight, I’d like to ask for calm from our members and supporters,” he tweeted.
“Let us be the change we voted for and embrace the spirit of Ubuntu (humanity) to love and live together harmoniously.”
Hichilema also tweeted a picture of himself and former president Rupiah Banda at the latter’s residence, saying they had just concluded a meeting.
Turnout was just over 70 percent in a vote that analysts say was a referendum against Lungu’s rule.
“We ask you (Lungu) for once to act in a statesman-like manner by quickly conceding to your brother Hakainde Hichilema so that the process of handover and reconciliation of this nation can begin,” Charles Milupi, chairman of the UPND Alliance told reporters.
International election observers have commended the transparent and peaceful organisation of the polls, but condemned the restrictions on freedom of assembly and movement.
Lungu also deployed the military following pre-election clashes and reinforced the army presence in three provinces after two deaths were reported on election day.