August 17, 2021: -On Monday, Zambian President Edgar Lungu conceded defeat after a landslide election win by opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, marking the southern African country’s third peaceful handover of power to an opposition party.
With one of the 156 constituencies counted, Hichilema won 2,810,777 votes against Lungu’s 1,814,201, and the electoral commission is declaring him the coming president.
“I will comply with the constitutional provisions for a peaceful transition of power. I would like to congratulate my brother, the president-elect, His Excellency Mr. Hakainde Hichilema,” Lungu, aged 64, said in a short-televised address to the nation.
Power has switched from the party that rules to the opposition before since independence from Britain in 1964. The recent shift strengthens Zambia’s democratic credentials and sets an example on a continent with a patchy history of peaceful change.
Lungu is crying foul on Saturday, calling the election “not free and fair” after violence against the ruling Patriotic Front party agents in three provinces. Still, the size of the margin would have made it near-impossible to challenge the result in court.
Wearing the red and yellow of Hichilema’s United Party for National Development, Hichilema’s supporters celebrated while drivers honked their horns.
“This victory is so sweet,” 37-year-old Jane Phiri said, beside her market stall, adds that she hoped that the supporters of Lungu would cease extorting informal levies from her.
“This spirit of change was bottled up for a long time,” she said.
The celebrations die down, Hichilema aged 59, a former CEO at an accounting firm before entering politics, faces the task of reviving an economy in turmoil.
In November, Zambia became Africa’s first pandemic-era sovereign default after failing to keep up with its international debt payments.
The default was driven by depressed commodity prices, which had pushed Zambia into recession well before the pandemic worsened by the pandemic itself.
Zambia’s sovereign dollar increased nearly 2 cents on Monday after the news of Hichilema’s win. Zambia’s kwacha currency strengthened almost 1% against the dollar.