January 20, 2015 finally arrived and it was a national holiday and election day in Zambia.
The biggest problem is that we woke up to a big rain storm and it made it difficult for the five million potential voters to get to the polling stations.
The eleven candidates provided a menu that should satisfy any voter.
Everyone expected that the tally would come in soon after the polls closed at 6 PM. That was probably optimistic and those in charge were expecting about twenty four hours of work to get the final count.
The biggest problem was the rain and there were fifty one constituencies that didn't have ballots yet.
It was reported that some were delivered by ox cart because of the muddy roads. Once they had the ballots, they were given a full twenty four hours to vote. The air force stepped in and helped gather the results and brought them back to Lusaka. The election "central" was in the Mulungushi Conference Centre where many of the main events in town take place.
Justice Mambilima had a very tough job. She was in charge of the process of electing a new President. She was on TV for five days reporting the returns every so often while the backers of the many candidates watched the process, along with the U.N. representatives and observers from other countries.
Constantly there were reminders to be peaceful and not to celebrate prematurely.
We heard the phrase "no pangas" in interviews on TV and on the graffiti in town.
It turns out that is a local word for a machete and in past elections they had been used in the heat of the campaigns. Things seemed pretty peaceful here, although a couple of sets of missionaries said they had gotten a whiff of lingering tear gas in their areas.
We had lots of small caravans making noise and occasionally the police would whiz by headed to some place to get ahead of any potential violence.
Below is the election centre where the waiting for the slow vote counting was reported.
Finally, on Saturday night at 10 PM the vote total was certified and passed to the Supreme Court Judge to accept the decision and declare the winner. There were five million potential voters but only one and a half million voted. Part of the low turnout was due to the heavy rain and part due to apathy that the new president would serve for only one and half years. The next election will be in July 2016 and the president elected then will serve for five years.
The race was close but from the people I talked to the results seemed to be cast along old tribal lines.
Hakainde Hichilema has mostly the southern and western tribes while Edgar Lungu has the eastern and northeastern tribal loyalty. The decision is strictly by popular vote. The difference between the two leaders was only 26,757 votes.
So, our new leader is Edgar C. Lungu. When it was officially announced the cheers erupted and the horns started and went far into the night. Our immediate neighbourhood was fairly quiet but the parades passed by for several hours.
The next day, Sunday the 25th, Edgar Lungu was sworn in as president at the new Hero's Stadium, less than twenty four hours after he was declared the winner.
Not everyone is happy so it will be interesting to watch events the next couple of weeks but I don't expect much trouble. Zambians are very proud of their "peaceful" nation.
As a side note, today was a wedding reception in the same Mulungushi Conference Centre where election central was housed. Some "hooligans" disrupted it and the police had to use tear gas again so the party was cut short. They will remember this election for sure.