Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu has bowed to pressure and conceded defeat to his opponent Hakainde Hichelema following last Thursday’s presidential polls.
Lungu said he would peacefully transfer power to Hakainde Hichelema of the United Party for National Development (UPND).
This was the third time that the two were battling for the presidency.
In a statement on Sunday evening, President Lungu said he was conceding defeat to protect Zambia’s Republican Constitution and to preserve the unity of the country.
“I unequivocally concede defeat as per the results that have so far been published by the Electoral Commission of Zambia . In the coming days, I look forward to commence and complete the handover to the new administration in line with the law.
I therefore appeal to members of the Patriotic Front and Zambians at large to support the new government in all endeavours,” he said.
“I have deeply reflected on the need for Zambia to move forward as a unitary state. In line with the people’s will who spoke through the ballot, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that as the 6th Republican President, I will hand over the instruments of power to Mr Hakainde Hichilema, the President of United Party for National Development who clearly has won these elections,” he added.
However, despite all the above, Lungu cited stifling of the electoral environment and election violence particularly in places like Western,Northwestern and Southern as reasons that may have led to his defeat.
“These acts fly in the face of our history as a beacon of peace. Admittedly, the legitimacy of elections are affected by such acts as they create an unfair against political opponents,” he said.
Lungu however, commended the Electoral Commission for having managed the elections despite the prevailing pandemic situations.
“I wish to commend the Electoral Commission of Zambia for having managed the electoral process diligently despite the challenges of Covid-19 , electoral violence and a stifling political environment,” said Lungu.
Despite delay of vote counting over a huge voter turnout, and disputes between candidates and the electoral commission in some provinces, the last update by the Zambia Electoral Commission showed Mr Hichelema, a prominent businessman, leading with 1,024,212 votes against the incumbent’s 565,523.
But before conceding defeat, five opposition leaders — Harry Kalaba, Nevers Mumba, Fred Mmembe, Chishala Kateka, Sean Tembo and Trevor Mwamba wrote to the embattled leader, urging him to concede defeat.
The leaders said President Lungu cannot cry foul because he tried to use his incumbency to tilt the scales in his favour during the polls.
“It is a fact that the just ended elections were far from being free and fair because the PF under your leadership as republican president made it practically impossible for the elections to attain the required standard to meet the test of free and fair,” the candidates wrote in a letter addressed to the president.
“The people of Zambia have spoken and the courts of law should not be used in any way to circumvent the wishes and aspirations of the people, We trust you will act with humility and submit to the wishes of the people by conceding defeat and allowing for the succession process to start without any further delay,” they added.
President Lungu came to power in 2015 after the death of Michael Sata.