Voting began on Tuesday for the next president of Zambia, one of Africa’s most promising frontier markets, in what shaped up as a tight race between a populist lawyer and a wealthy economist.
Edgar Lungu, leader of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), is seen having a slight edge over main rival, Hakainde Hichilema, a businessman whose United Party for National Development (UPND) has won over the middle-class and investors.
The two candidates had promised to improve the economy and create jobs in the country.
The winner would serve out the remaining 18 months of Michael Sata’s term as Zambia is due to hold a general election in 2016.
Former President, Michael Sata, passed away in October 2014 and Vice President Guy Scott became acting President of Zambia.
Observers have said that the election has been largely peaceful.
Counting of the ballots would begin shortly after polls close with results due to be announced within 48 hours.
Zambia is Africa’s biggest copper producer after Democratic Republic of Congo. Its mining sector had experienced a boom in recent years with the economy averaging a 6 to 7 percent growth.
It however slowed to to 5.5 percent in 2014 from being one of the world’s best performing economies.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media & Publicity, Reuben Abati, on behalf of the Federal Government and the people of Nigeria, President Jonathan extended condolences to the government and people of Zambia on the death of President Sata who has led his country since 2011.
“President Jonathan’s deepest sympathies are with the people of Zambia and President Sata’s family as they mourn their leader, patriarch, nationalist and patriot who will always be remembered for his uncompromising stand against neo-colonialism and any semblance of renewed imperialism in Zambia and Africa as a whole.
“As they mourn President Sata and prepare to lay him to rest, President Jonathan urges the brotherly people of Zambia to commit themselves fully to a peaceful and orderly succession in keeping with the principles of democracy and the country’s constitution,” the statement read.
He prayed that God Almighty would comfort the people of Zambia and grant them a worthy successor to President Sata who would keep the country on an even keel and ensure that it continues to make steady progress for the benefit of its people.