Opposition takes early lead in Zambia election

Zambia’s major opposition candidate was leading in partial election results on Saturday, as incumbent President Edgar Lungu cried foul.

Even though EU monitors declared campaign conditions were “unequal” and favored the incumbent, Hakainde Hichilema, 59, was ahead of Lungu, 64, in approximately 20% of the constituencies announced thus far, thanks to a high turnout in Thursday’s vote.

Hichilema is running for the third time against Lungu in what observers predict will be a close race due to growing dissatisfaction over rising living costs and crackdowns on dissent in the southern African country.

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The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has revealed the results of 31 of the 156 seats so far, with Hichilema leading with 449,699 votes to Lungu’s 266,202.

The government Patriotic Front (PF) and the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) both say their candidates are in the lead, citing their own tabulations.

Hundreds of UPND supporters marched through Lusaka on Saturday, expressing their dissatisfaction with the ECZ.

Following deadly pre-election skirmishes, soldiers tasked to police the election on Thursday kept an eye on the area from armoured military vehicles.

After two deaths on election day, including a ruling party chairman, voting continued late into the night, resulting in intermittent conflicts and troop reinforcements in three regions.

On Saturday, Lungu argued the election was unfair because of the violence, which he said was centered in UPND strongholds.

“With polling agents having been attacked and chased from polling stations, we were reduced to competing in seven (out of ten) provinces,” he said in a statement, adding that the PF was “consulting on the next course of action”.

The final result is expected to be published within 72 hours of the latest voting station closing time, which might mean a wait until early Monday.

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