Zambia woke up on Monday with a new president, the longtime opponent Hakainde Hichilema, widely elected with nearly a million votes in advance and a strong turnout, his predecessor promising a “peaceful transition of power”.

Mr. Hichilema, a tireless 59-year-old businessman running for the sixth time for the presidency, hailed “a historic moment that millions of Zambians have been waiting for”.

Nicknamed “HH” but also “Bally”, an affectionate term for a father or an elder, the politician addressed the country directly from his home in a residential area of ​​the capital, Lusaka.

He praised the youth, strongly mobilized, the under 35s representing the majority of the seven million registered in the southern African country which has a population of 17 million: “This victory does not belong to HH, to Bally “, But” to the men and women of Zambia, especially young people. “

“People’s expectations are high,” noted the man who promised to turn around the economy of the indebted country plagued by high inflation.

Standing behind a desk, chic suit over an open collar shirt, he was overcome with emotion as he spoke, removing his mask and wiping his eyes: “It is with honor, humility and gratitude that I stand in front of you to say that the change is here. “

It is with honor, humility and gratitude that I stand before you to say that the change is here.

Shortly before, the outgoing president had conceded his defeat and hailed the victory of his historic rival. “I want to congratulate my brother, Hakainde Hichilema, president-elect, who becomes the seventh president of the Republic” of Zambia, said Edgar Lungu, who has headed the country for six years.

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A better democracy

In Lusaka on Monday morning, activists and ordinary citizens climbed on poles or parked on the edge of avenues to tear up campaign posters of the outgoing president, predominantly green, the color of his party.

After raising some concerns, by contesting on Saturday evening the unfair conditions, according to him, of the ballot in three provinces, Mr. Lungu promised Monday to comply with the Constitution to allow “a peaceful transition of power”.

“HH”, who promised to be the president of all Zambians, did not fail to denounce the “brutal regime” of the outgoing government and pledged a “better democracy”.

Lungu, a lawyer by training, had been increasingly inflexible towards any opposition or critical voice, shutting down independent media and arresting opposition figures. Hichilema himself claims to have been arrested fifteen times since he became involved in politics.

“HH” received nearly a million votes more than Mr. Lungu, the electoral commission announced overnight, underlining a high turnout of nearly 71%.

During Thursday’s poll, some polling stations had to close their doors at 5 a.m. to allow all voters, who were in line before the 6 p.m. deadline, to vote.

Coming to power in 2015, after the death of the previous president, Mr. Lungu said he had “sought to serve my country as best I could”, following a campaign very critical of its economic management in particular.

Economic difficulties and inflation in this copper-rich country, which was the first on the continent to default on its debt since the start of the pandemic, had marred Mr. Lungu’s popularity, pollsters said. month.

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During his last campaign speech, Hakainde Hichilema said that his political motivation came from the desire to offer Zambians “a better life”: “It pains me to see citizens go to bed without having eaten. “

He also deplored the under-exploited potential of the natural resources of Zambia, the second largest producer of copper in Africa. “Assets worth billions of dollars don’t pay off […] to improve our lives. “

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