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Nothing is impossible, Raila says after Zambia opposition leader wins presidency

AFRICA
By Jael Mboga and Agencies | August 16th 2021

United Party for National Development (UPND) Presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema in Lusaka on January 18, 2015. [Reuters]

ODM leader Raila Odinga has congratulated Zambia President-elect Hakainde Hichilema for his victory in the election.

"Amidst an unprecedented public health challenge, the Zambian people have made Africa proud for conducting a successful election," he said.

Raila added, "A free, fair, credible and verifiable election always certainly return the will of the people."

The ODM leader went on, "It is my hope that this election strengthens the democratic life of your Zambia, brings more prosperity to the people and reminds fellow Africans elsewhere that nothing is impossible."

Opposition leader Hichilema secured a stunning landslide victory over incumbent Edgar Lungu in Zambia's presidential election, results showed on Monday.

The electoral commission said Hichilema got 2,810,777 votes against Lungu's 1,814,201, with all but one of the 156 constituencies counted.

"I therefore declare that the said Hichilema to be president of Zambia," electoral commission chairman, Esau Chulu, said in a packed results centre in the capital Lusaka.

That would make the third time that power has shifted peacefully from a ruling party to the opposition since the southern African country's independence from Britain in 1964.

Across Zambia, celebrations broke out in the streets as Hichilema's supporters wearing the red and yellow of his United Party for National Development (UPND) danced and sang, while drivers honked their horns.

Celebrations could be short-lived, however: Zambia is in dire financial straights, and it became the continent's first pandemic-era sovereign default in November after failing to keep up with its international debt payments. 

That was owing to an explosive mix of depressed commodity prices - which had pushed Zambia into recession well before the pandemic - and a brutal slowdown in economic activity caused by the pandemic itself.

Hichilema, 59, a former CEO at an accounting firm before entering politics, now faces the task of trying to revive Zambia's fortunes. The economy has been buoyed only slightly by more favourable copper prices - now hovering around decade highs, driven partly by the boom in electric cars.

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