Zambians, on Thursday, started voting in an election showdown between President Edgar Lungu and his opposition rival Hakainde Hichilema – after a tense campaign overshadowed by economic woes and the overall impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The election looks too tight to call and comes amid ascending debt and a flagging economy.
As per media reports, nearly seven million citizens are eligible to vote for a president, legislators, and local government representatives.
The polls opened at 6 am (04:00 GMT) on Thursday and are to close 12 hours later at more than 12,000 voting stations across the country.
Long queues could be seen at voting booths in the capital Lusaka, which signify a big turnout in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer.
The electoral agency says it will declare a winner within 72 hours after polls close.
The governing Patriotic Front (PF) came to power in 2011 on the promise of “fewer taxes, more jobs, and more money in people’s pockets”. It says it has remained true courtesy of its pro-poor policies.
“A major portion of work has gone into stopping the bleeding of the economy, and we are on the path to recovery now,” PF campaign spokesman Amos Chanda said.
The main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), however, claims that President Edgar Lungu has not met the expectations of Zambians.
The view is backed by University of Zambia political science lecturer Charity Musamba.
“We have seen massive abuse of resources, which added to the country’s economic problems,” she spoke to the international press.
“The scenario that is prevalent in our country, including the dismal state of the economy and the surging levels of unemployment, need to be addressed,” she added.
Zambia is the continent’s first country to default on its sovereign debt during the coronavirus pandemic in November.