Opposition Hichilema Takes Early Lead in Zambia’s Presidential Polls

Zambia’s opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has taken an early lead in the country’s Presidential election over incumbent President, Edgar Lungu.  This was revealed in the results announced by the nation’s electoral commission on Saturday.

Hichilema has so far tallied 171,604 votes versus the 110,178 garnered by Lungu in the results for 15 of the southern African nation’s 156 constituencies.

Some of the 15 constituencies include some of Lungu’s strongest zones, with pointers to Hichilema’s growing popularity in the last five years. The opposition lost by a difference of 1.68% of the votes in 2016 and is highly fancied to defeat Lungu this time around, considering the incumbent’s struggles with governance. 

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The commission said a total of 296,210 votes were cast in those constituencies, representing an impressive 71.75% turnout rate, chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano told a media briefing in the capital Lusaka.

The first results had been billed for announcement on Friday but were postponed as counting went deep into the nights, due to large voter turnout. Political parties had also objected to the electoral commission’s initial figures in one constituency, which didn’t tally with those from monitors on the ground.

The Electoral Commission of Zambia left the last polling station to remain open until 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Friday to give people who queued for hours an opportunity to cast their ballots.

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More than 7 million voters were registered to vote in the election contested by 16 Presidential candidates. The frontrunners in the polls are however incumbent Lungu of the Patriotic Front and his closest opposition, Hichilema of the United Party for National Development.

It is Hichilema’s sixth attempt at Presidency in the Southern African nation.

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