Hakainde Hichilema, the 59-year old businessman contesting the presidency for the sixth time, has more than 2.3 million votes to President Edgar Lungu’s 1.4 million votes, according to results announced Sunday by the Electoral Commission of Zambia.

Opposition UPND party's presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema waves to supporters after casting his ballot in Lusaka, Zambia, August 12, 2021.
Opposition UPND party's presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema waves to supporters after casting his ballot in Lusaka, Zambia, August 12, 2021. (Reuters)

Zambia’s main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema overcame 15 years of obstacles to achieve a landslide victory in the country’s presidential election.

Hichilema, an economist fondly known as HH, of the United Party for National Development (UPND), received 2,810,757 votes, beating his closest rival and incumbent Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF), who garnered 1,840,201 votes.

He is the seventh elected president of Zambia since independence in 1964.

He became president-elect with close to 60 percent of the vote, more than 50 percent of the vote as per constitutional requirement, with votes tallied from 155 of 156 constituencies nationwide.

READ MORE: Vote count under way in Zambia after tight presidential election

Celebrations for Hichilema’s victory

Mutale Nalumango, an ex-deputy speaker of parliament, automatically becomes vice-president by virtue of being Hichilema’s running-mate in the poll.

Declaring Hichilema the winner around 2:30 AM in the capital Lusaka, Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) chairman Esau Chulu said the delayed results being awaited from Mandevu, a constituency in Lusaka, would be insignificant and unnecessarily delay the decision.

“I therefore proceed to announce the said Hakainde Hichilema to be the president-elect of the Republic of Zambia, on this day 16/08/2021,” Chulu, the returning officer for the presidential poll, said at the national results center the Mulungushi International Conference Center.

The declaration spurred wild celebrations in Lusaka as residents drove around the city honking car horns.

A group went and gathered at Hichilema’s residence in the plush New Kasama area of Lusaka, which was now surrounded by state security.

Garry Nkombo, a UPND chairman for elections, described Hichilema’s victory as one for the people.

Nkombo, himself a parliamentary elected representative from the poll in Mazabuka in the Southern Province, commended the commission for being professional despite delaying the declaration.

Hichilema, who was running a sixth time, said in a Facebook post on his official account “thank you Zambia.”

The president-elect had a day prior visited former President Rupiah Banda and the two held private talks ahead of what was becoming a clear Hichilema victory.

There was no immediate comment from the Lungu camp as an official from his party was earlier ejected from the results center after appearing in a drunken state and attempting to interrupt the results announcement.

READ MORE: Zambia's election overshadowed by sinking economy

Lungu had defeated Hichilema 3 times

Lungu, who had served for more than six years and defeated Hichilema twice before, said Saturday that the poll was not free and fair, alleging violence on his party agents in three of Hichilema’s provincial strongholds in Western, Southern and North-Western provinces.

His daughter, Tasila, was however elected a parliamentary representative for Chawama constituency in Lusaka.

Hichilema and Lungu were the front runners out of a pack of 16 aspirants, several of whom started recognising Hichilema as the clear victor as early as the second day into vote counting.

Any losing candidate has a two-week window to petition the outcome, under which Hichilema’s inauguration ceremony would be on hold.

Lungu, a lawyer, would also have to cede office as per constitutional requirements to the speaker of parliament, Patrick Matibini, to provide for a free and just legal process.

Hichilema has a lot on his plate to take care of when in office, including an ailing economy due to mounting debt and addressing concerns of deep-rooted government corruption as well as some legal reforms.

READ MORE: Zambia president sends in army to quell pre-election violence

An excited citizen, John Zulu, said Hichilema’s victory was an act of change so much desired by the people as was expressed on voting day, when over 7 million registered voters came out to cast their ballots.

Hichilema faced a number of challenges in his bid for the presidency, including multiple arrests and restrictions to conduct campaigns via the Public Order Act.

He was jailed for more than 100 days in 2017 on treason charges after he allegedly refused to give way to Lungu’s motorcade on a road in Western Province during a traditional ceremony.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies