(Lusaka) Zambia woke up on Monday to a new president, long-time opponent Hakainde Hichilema, elected very broadly with almost a million votes in advance and a strong turnout. His predecessor promised a “peaceful change of power”.
Posted on Aug 16, 2021 at 7:53 pm
Obert SIMWANZA and Sofia CHRISTENSEN Agence France-Presse
The tireless 59-year-old businessman, who is running for the sixth time in the presidential election, praised “an historic moment that millions of Zambia have been waiting for”.
Nickname “HH” but also “Bally”, a loving name for a father or an elder, speaks to Mr. Hichilema, with a high forehead and bushy eyebrows, living in the country from his place of residence in a residential area of the capital Lusaka.
He praised the strongly mobilized youth, who represent the majority of the seven million in the South African country with 17 million inhabitants under 35: “This victory does not belong to HH, Bally, but to” the men and women “of Zambia, especially the youth” .
“People’s expectations are high,” said the man who promised to turn the economy of the high-inflation-ridden, indebted country inside out.
Standing behind a desk, a smart suit over an open shirt, conveys both seriousness and relaxation, while he spoke, he was overwhelmed by emotions, took off his mask and wiped his eyes: “It is in honor, humility and gratitude that I stand in front of you to say that the change is here. ”
Shortly before, the outgoing president had admitted defeat and celebrated the victory of his historic rival. “I would like to congratulate my brother Hakainde Hichilema, the President-elect who will become the seventh President of the republic,” said Edgar Lungu, the country’s head of state for six years.
In Lusaka, activists and ordinary people climbed poles or parked on the edge of avenues on Monday morning to tear up election posters of the outgoing president, mostly green, the color of his party, AFP noted.
A “better democracy”
After raising some concerns, Mr. Lungu pledged on Monday, by challenging the allegedly unfair terms of voting in three provinces on Saturday night, to comply with the constitution to allow for a “peaceful transfer of power”.
“HH”, who promised to become president of all Zambia, did not fail to denounce the outgoing “brutal regime” and promised a “better democracy”.
Lungu, a trained lawyer, was increasingly inflexible to any opposition or critical voice, closing independent media outlets and arresting opposition members. Hichilema himself claims to have been arrested fifteen times since his engagement in politics.
“HH” received almost one million votes more than Mr. Lungu, as the electoral commission announced overnight and underlined a high voter turnout of almost 71%.
In Thursday’s election, some polling stations had to close their doors at 5 a.m. to allow all voters who had gathered before the 6 p.m. deadline to cast their votes.
In a State Department statement, the United States congratulated Hichilema and celebrated the election as “a tribute to the democratic ideals on which the country was founded and an inspiration to the democratic aspirations of people around the world”.
Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi saw the survey as “essential lessons for the region and the African continent as a whole. ”
When Mr. Lungu came to power in 2015 following the death of the former president, he claimed he was “trying to serve (his) country as well as possible” after a campaign was very critical of his economy.
Economic troubles and inflation in this copper-rich country, the first on the continent to default on its debts since the pandemic began, had tarnished Mr Lungu’s popularity, pollsters said.
The authoritarian man, tall and slim, with a smile that can be recognized by his lucky teeth, has often been criticized for taking out inappropriate loans, especially from Chinese creditors, to finance a flood of infrastructure projects.