President Edgar Lungu (64) and his main rival, long-time nemesis and business tycoon Hakainde Hichilema (59), have cast their ballots in what promises to be a closely contested election.
Zambians went to the polls early on Thursday in what appears to be a huge turnout, even as the region battles growing cases of Covid-19.
Lungu is hoping to clinch a second term, and wrest victory away from Hichilema, the flagbearer of main opposition party UPND.
Early morning queues could be seen in the capital Lusaka, with many young people telling Nation.Africa that they were eager to cast their ballots.
“I’m so glad, I have finally managed to vote after being in the queue for the last two hours,” Elita Tembo, 23, told Nation. Africa in the central township of Kabwata.
The ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party has campaigned on the back of massive infrastructure it has put up in the last nine years, while the opposition UPND has hammered in the fact that the country’s economy has floundered over the years and worsened after the outbreak of Covid-19.
It has also pointed out that Lungu’s government has massively borrowed to invest in infrastructure, racking up billions in foreign debt that the taxpayer is struggling to pay.
Mr Hichilema, who is being backed by an alliance of the opposition parties, told journalists he is confident of winning the election as the masses are dissatisfied with the state of the economy.
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Mr Lungu chose to cast his ballot in the slums of Chawama township, south of Lusaka.
“We are winning, I would not be in the race if we are not winning,” he told reporters on Thursday. After voting, the President asked Zambian to maintain the peace.
The government had deployed troops ahead of the vote Thursday after two people were killed in election-related violence.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), which Zambia belongs to, issued a statement calling for a calm, peaceful poll.
“SADC further calls upon all stakeholders,particularly political parties,to make use of the established legal institutions in the event of any electoral dispute,” Botswana President Dr Eric Masisi, who is chair of SADC’s defence, politics and security, said in a statement.
About 7.2 million people were eligible to cast their vote in the country with a population of 18 million people. – Nation Media