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Zambia opposition leader ahead in early election results

Early results in Zambia’s presidential election Saturday showed opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema ahead of his rival President Edgar Lungu, in a tight race marred by political tensions.

Results released by the Zambia Electoral Commission from eight of 156 constituencies showed businessman Hichilema in the lead with 47,706 votes after Thursday’s election, against 41,572 for Lungu.

Hichilema who leads the United Party for National Development (UPND) had on Friday made allegations of fraud, following delays in releasing early results.

Zambia is known for its relative stability, but the election campaign was marked by weeks of clashes between the rival groups, with at least three people killed in the run-up to the vote.

However, there were no major disruptions on polling day.

Hichilema, a wealthy businessman who is making his fifth attempt to win the presidency, narrowly lost a snap election to Lungu last year by less than 28,000 votes.

Constitutional changes now require the winner to have more than 50 percent of the vote, and a re-run would be called if there is no clear majority.

A total of nine candidates contested the election.

Lungu’s short term in office has been marked by criticism for failing to revive an economy battered by a decline in copper prices, the country’s main export, and a poor performing currency.

The turnout at Thursday’s election was 57.55 percent, and voters also cast ballots in a constitutional referendum on amending the bill of rights.

The results were expected to trickle in throughout the day, in a vast country mainly made up of rural districts.