Zambia’s incumbent president has won reelection, but only just

Zambia’s incumbent president Edgar Lungu and his wife Esther in Lusaka.
Zambia’s incumbent president Edgar Lungu and his wife Esther in Lusaka.
Image: Reuters/Rogan Ward
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With 50.3% of the national vote, Zambia’s incumbent president Edgar Lungu has won reelection by barely squeaking past a 50% threshold, according to the country’s election commission.

According to new electoral rules, the winner must gain more than 50% of the national vote instead of just a simple majority. Lungu’s Patriotic Front beat its main rival, Hakainde Hichilema’s United Party of National Development party (UPND) by 100,530 votes.

The election is a test of stability in one of Africa’s best-functioning multi-party democracies. The new electoral rule, also known as the “50% plus one” clause was introduced to stop what critics called the election of ”minority presidents,” leaders who have only won because of a splintered national vote caused by a plethora of candidates.

This year’s presidential race had nine candidates including Lungu. He won last year’s by election by only 27,000 votes, with 48.3% of the vote.

Police presence in Zambia has been heavy as the country awaited the results, delayed by two days. Hichilema has said there have been “irregularities” in the vote counting and has demanded a recount in the district of Lusaka, home to the country’s capital.

“The question is will the elections be defined as free and fair, transparent and credible in this environment? My answer is no,” Hichilema said.