With 155 of 156 constituencies reporting, Hichilema received 2,810,757 votes to President Edgar Lungu‘s 1,814,201 votes. The 59-year-old veteran opposition politician overcame his long-time foe, Lungu, in a bruising election held against the backdrop of decreasing living standards. Hichilema, 59, is for the presidency for the sixth time, and the third time he has faced incumbent Lungu, 64.
In 2016, Hichilema was beaten by Lungu by almost 100,000 votes. Lungu, who has been in charge for six years, faced voters amid mounting unrest and soaring living costs in the southern African country.
Hichilema had twelve opposition groups under his banner in Thursday’s election, including the largest opposition, the United Party for National Development (UPND). Before a winner was declared, Lungu began yelling foul, claiming that the election was neither free nor fair due to acts of violence in Hichilema’s traditional stronghold.
In a statement made through the president’s office, he claimed that his party’s polling workers were attacked and chased from polling stations. Hundreds of people clad in party regalia waving flags and rallying outside Hichilema’s house erupted in street celebrations in regions of Lusaka’s capital as the results were being tabulated.
Others did a dance routine while blaring their car horns. On Sunday, Hichilema, often known by his initials ‘HH’ or as Bally (slang for dad), called for peace, saying, ‘Victory is in sight.’
International election monitors lauded the elections for being transparent and peaceful, but they criticized restrictions on freedom of assembly and travel during the campaigning period. Security personnel banned Hichilema from campaigning in a number of regions, including the strategically crucial Copperbelt Province, citing violations of coronavirus and public order laws.
After two deaths on election day, Lungu deployed the troops and expanded the army presence in three locations following pre-election clashes. On Saturday, just as Hichilema was voting, social media access in the capital, Lusaka, was restored as a result of a court judgment. The voter turnout was predicted to be somewhat higher than 70%.