Aug 16, 2021 - World

Zambia opposition leader wins presidential election

Zambia’s veteran opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema
Hakainde Hichilema. Photo: Patrick Meinhardt/AFP via Getty Images

Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema was declared the country's president-elect on Monday after winning more than 50% of the vote in last week's election.

Why it matters: It was one of the most decisive electoral wins in the country's history, with Hichilema winning 2.8 million votes to President Egar Lungu's 1.8 million votes, according to AP.

What they're saying: "It is indeed a new day. Change is here,” Hichilema, 59, said on Monday, per AP.

  • "Let’s put the past behind us. We are not going into office to arrest those who arrested us … to replace those that have been very violent against our people only to start a new wave of violence."
  • Lungu, who said on Saturday the election was "not free and fair," accepted defeat on Monday and said he would work for a "peaceful transfer of power," per AP.

The big picture: It was Hichilema's sixth attempt at the presidency in the southern African nation. He narrowly lost to Lunga in 2016.

  • Hichilema has promised democratic reforms and a "zero tolerance" approach to corruption, according to AP.
  • He has also vowed to tackle the country's dire economic situation, which was exacerbated by the pandemic. While the economy has slightly rebounded due to the rise in copper prices and the loosening of lockdown measures, inflation reached an all-time high earlier this year, Reuters reports.
  • Ahead of the election, Lunga and his government had been accused of unfairly limiting Hichilema’s ability to campaign, as well as rights abuses in its crackdown on opposition protests, according to the New York Times. It also restricted internet access last week, a move that was overturned by the country's High Court.
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