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Zambia elects new president amid COVID concerns, economic crisis



Voters in southern African nation of Zambia, headed to the polls on Thursday to elect the president and members of the National Assembly.

The voting came at a challenging time for the copper-rich nation, which was currently struggling with a severe economic crisis, political tensions and tough coronavirus restrictions.

There were 16 names on the ballot for president, but the race was expected to be a close head-to-head.

The close votes were supposed to be between, incumbent Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF) and main opposition candidate, Hakainde Hichilema from the United Party of National Development (UPND).

Seven million people were eligible to vote. Official results were not expected before Saturday.

Zambia had been regarded as one of Africa’s most successful democracies, with several peaceful changes of power haven taken place since multi-party democracy was introduced in 1990.

But the last general elections in 2016 were preceded by a wave of violence, with clashes erupting between opposition and government supporters.

After Lungu’s win, the opposition claimed the poll was rigged in his favour.

Opposition politicians, repeatedly faced arrests and charges over the past few years, drawing accusations from human rights groups that the cases were politically motivated.

Hichilema, a perennial presidential candidate, was charged in 2017 with high treason and held in detention, but the case was later dropped.

Lungu, 64, became president after narrowly winning a January 2015 by-election, caused by the death of his predecessor, Michael Sata.

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Cecilia Odey

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