Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema secured a shock landslide victory in the nation’s presidential election.
Electoral Commission of Zambia Chairman Esau Chulu announced Hichilema’s victory over incumbent President Edgar Lungu at a briefing early on Monday in the capital, Lusaka. Hichilema obtained 2.81 million votes against 1.81 million for Lungu — the biggest margin of victory in a quarter century.
Hichilema, 59, faces the difficult task of reviving an economy wrecked by years of overspending that culminated in the nation becoming Africa’s first pandemic-era sovereign defaulter in November. Annual inflation is at the highest in two decades at nearly 25%, and the economy is forecast to only narrowly avoid a depression this year.
The president-elect will also need to reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout, and repair relations with copper miners operating in Zambia, Africa’s second-biggest producer of the metal.
Hichilema has said he plans to seal a bailout from the IMF as soon as is technically possible and initiate debt-restructuring talks. The businessman and cattle rancher says he can achieve an economic growth rate of more than 10% within five years if he’s elected, mainly by growing the mining, agriculture, construction and manufacturing industries.
Lungu, who won power in 2015, said the Aug. 12 election was tainted because of violence in three provinces where Hichilema performed the best. But a European Union observer mission on Saturday pointed to a lopsided playing field that favored Lungu during the campaign period, when it said there was misuse of state resources and one-sided media reporting. Hichilema’s United Party for National Development dismissed Lungu’s claims.
Zambia stands out in the region, having changed governments democratically twice since the late Kenneth Kaunda’s rule ended in 1991. The Patriotic Front won power in 2011 under Michael Sata’