Tuesday, January 18

Zambian opposition leader wins by largest margin in 25 years


Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema secured a landslide landslide victory in the nation’s presidential elections.

Zambian Election Commission Chairman Esau Chulu announced Hichilema’s victory over incumbent President Edgar Lungu at a briefing early Monday in the capital Lusaka. Hichilema obtained 2.81 million votes against 1.81 million Lungu, the largest margin of victory in a quarter of a century.

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Hichilema, 59, faces the difficult task of reviving an economy ruined by years of overspending that culminated in the nation becoming Africa’s first sovereign defaulting country in the era of a pandemic in November. Annual inflation is the highest in two decades, nearly 25%, and the economy is forecast to narrowly avoid a depression this year.

The president-elect will also have to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout and repair relations with copper miners operating in Zambia, Africa’s second largest metal producer.

Hichilema has said it plans to seal an IMF bailout as soon as technically possible and to start debt restructuring talks. The businessman and rancher says he can achieve an economic growth rate of more than 10% in five years if elected, primarily through growth in the mining, agriculture, construction and manufacturing industries.

Hichilema’s big victory “bodes well for discussions with the IMF around an extended credit line and foreign debt restructuring talks,” Eurasia Group analyst Connor Vasey said in a sent research note. via email.

Known as HH, Hichilema has a BA in economics and an MBA from the University of Birmingham in the UK. He unsuccessfully contested the nation’s five previous presidential elections and was jailed for four months on treason charges in 2017 after his convoy of vehicles refused to make way for Lungu.

Asymmetric campaign

Lungu, who won power in 2015, said the Aug. 12 elections were marred by violence in three provinces where Hichilema performed best. But a European Union observation mission on Saturday pointed to an unbalanced playing field that favored Lungu during the campaign period, when he said there was misuse of state resources and one-sided media reporting.

The Hichilema United Party for National Development dismissed Lungu’s claims.

Zambia stands out in the region, having democratically changed governments twice since the late Kenneth Kaunda’s rule ended in 1991. The Patriotic Front gained power in 2011 under the leadership of Michael Sata, and Lungu was elected in 2015 after his death. from Sata while he was in office.

Near-record copper prices, which account for more than 70% of Zambia’s export earnings, will boost Zambia’s coffers regardless of who wins.

Another bonus is a $ 1.3 billion IMF transfer due this month, aside from Zambia’s talks with the fund for a similar amount, which will nearly double the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

To wrap up talks of the program with the Washington-based lender, which will anchor negotiations with external creditors, including holders of the nation’s $ 3 billion Eurobonds, the Zambian government may need to cut subsidies to energy and agriculture that have drained the government’s accounts in recent years.

As for Hichilema, “there is absolutely nothing to celebrate,” Gary Nkombo, UPND president of elections, told reporters. “This country has many challenges.”

© 2021 Bloomberg


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