Zambians vote in tight presidential election, internet limited

  • Long queues point to high turnout
  • Challenger provides financial solution to voters
  • The vote looks too close to ring, analysts say
  • Zambia was Africa’s first standard in the pandemic

LUSAKA, August 12 (Reuters) – Zambians on Thursday voted for a new leader with long queues, pointing to a large turnout in an election showdown between President Edgar Lungu and the main opposition rival Hakainde Hichilema, who looks too tight to be convened.

But as millions cast their ballots, social media platforms were restricted across the country, Internet blocking observatory NetBlocks said.

“Real-time networking data confirms that social media and messaging platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Messenger are now restricted in #Zambia on Election Day in addition to the previous WhatsApp restriction,” NetBlocks said in a tweet.

Zambia Information and Communication Technology Acting Director General Mulenga Chisanga did not respond to calls for comment.

United Party for National Development (UPND) Presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema watches during a rally in Lusaka on January 18, 2015. REUTERS / Rogan Ward

The restriction of internet access may provoke tensions and suspicion of the vote, which African and European observers said had been peaceful Thursday.

Lungu and Hichiema, who voted at different stations at hourly intervals, were both confident of winning the vote, and the close competition raised the possibility of a run-off.

The Electoral Commission says it expects to declare a winner within 72 hours after the polls close.

Zambia, Africa’s second-largest copper producer, became the continent’s first country during the corona pandemic to default on its sovereign debt in November. Its economy is fluttering.

Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Edited by Joe Bavier, Raju Gopalakrishnan, Elaine Hardcastle and Angus MacSwan

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