From: The Stream

Will a presidential election bring change to Zambia?

On Monday, August 9 at 19:30 GMT:
Presidential candidates in Zambia’s general election on August 12 now have just a few days to appeal to voters. But tensions between supporters of the two frontrunners remain high amid outbursts of political violence.

Incumbent Edgar Lungu of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) is seeking a full second term as president and is being closely challenged by Hakainde Hichilema of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND). Hichilema is making his sixth bid for the presidency. Seventeen other candidates are also in the running.

The economy is one of the major issues for voters in this year’s election, with people struggling to get by amid high inflation. The value of the kwacha steadily depreciated against the dollar throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021. Its recent recovery in July may be too late for Lungu to claim that he has been an effective steward of the country’s economy. Zambia’s public debt stands at $19.3 billion – nearly 82 percent of the country’s total gross domestic product.

Zambia has also been badly hit by COVID-19. Its health ministry has declared more than 199,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease over the course of the pandemic. At least 3,474 people have died.

As election day nears, there is growing hostility between supporters of Lungu and Hichilema. On August 1, Lungu announced army troops had been deployed in the capital Lusaka and three other provinces to help prevent further political violence that has already left at least two people dead. He said the deployment is to maintain order before the vote, but the CPND says its campaigners have been unfairly targeted by police for allegedly being in breach of restrictions on political rallies due to the risk of coronavirus.

There are also concerns from human rights organisations over free access to information around the time of the election, with the #KeepItOn coalition urging Lungu to ensure the internet remains accessible. International human rights organisation Amnesty International warned in June that authorities are leading “brazen attacks on any form of dissent”.

In this episode of The Stream we’ll look at what’s happening in Zambia in the final run-up to a watershed election.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Haru Mutasa, @harumutasa
Africa Correspondent, Al Jazeera English

Anthony Bwalya, @UPNDZM
Presidential spokesperson, United Party for National Development (UPND)

Amos Chanda
Political and Media Committee spokesperson, Patriotic Front (PF)