Business tycoon and opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema won Zambia’s hotly contested presidential election on Monday, defeating incumbent Edgar Lungu.
Official results, with 155 of 156 constituencies reporting, showed Hichilema securing 2,810,757 votes against Lungu’s 1,814,201.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu conceded defeat late Monday night – in what marked the country’s third peaceful power handover to an opposition party.
“I will adhere to the constitutional provisions for a peaceful passing of power. I would like to congratulate my brother, the president-elect, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema,” Lungu said in a short televised address to the nation.
When the euphoria of winning the election dies down, Hakainde Hichilema, 59, a former CEO at an accounting firm prior to entering politics, will need to focus on reviving a flagging economy.
Zambia was Africa’s first pandemic-era sovereign to default after failing to keep up with its international debt payments in November.
The default was propelled by depressed commodity prices – which had shoved Zambia into recession well before the COVID-19 pandemic – worsened by the virus itself.
The vital win sparked celebrations on the streets after an election scratched by sporadic violence.
The election was the sixth time Hichilema had run for the top position and the third time he had challenged the incumbent Lungu.
He narrowly lost to Lungu by about 100,000 votes in 2016.
“This was a protest vote, a protest for change, and a protest for hope. We will never let our President down,” said one of his voters.
Hichilema has some room for maneuver as the economy has been oxygenated slightly by more favorable copper prices this year. The copper prices are now hovering around decade highs, driven partly by the surge in electric cars. Last year, Zambia produced a record output of the metal. It is Africa’s second-biggest copper miner.