According to the preliminary results from the electoral commission early on Saturday, Zambia’s Opposition Leader Hakainde Hichilema grabbed an early lead in the country’s presidential election over incumbent Edgar Lungu.
In the results for 15 of the 156 constituencies in the southern African nation, Hichilema received 171,604 votes to Lungu’s 110,178.
Those 15 constituencies include alleged Lungu strongholds, implying that Hichilema has gained support since the 2016 polls, when he was defeated by a razor-thin margin in contested elections clouded by claims of Lungu manipulation.
A total of 296,210 votes were cast in those constituencies, representing a 71.75% turnout rate, Chief Electoral Officer Patrick Nshindano told a media briefing in the capital Lusaka.
The first results, initially expected on Friday, were delayed after counting went on overnight due to the huge voter turnout and because political parties objected to the electoral commission’s initial figures in one constituency, which differed with those from monitors on the ground.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia allowed the last polling station to remain open until 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Friday to give people who queued for hours an opportunity to cast their ballots amid restrictions on internet access and violence in three regions.
An estimated 7 million people registered to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections that saw top contender Hichilema, a successful businessman, challenge Lungu’s attempt to win a second five-year term.