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Opposition party in Zambia concerned about deployment of soldiers ahead of elections – South.Africa.com


The opposition party in Zambia has raised concerns about the prevailing environment ahead of elections.

President Edgar Lungu has deployed soldiers as part of security measures and the opposition says its members are being harassed and intimidated.

Arthur Sikopo, Channel Africa’s correspondent shares more:

Lungu will seek to fend off a perennial opposition challenger in a vote on Thursday that may be decided by frustrated young voters amid economic turmoil and a pending bailout for one of Africa’s most indebted nations.
Investors are closely watching the August 12 vote in the major copper producer which had the continent’s first pandemic-sovereign default in November.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) support, already broadly agreed, is on hold until after the vote. So too is debt restructuring seen as an early test of a new global plan to ease poor countries’ burden.

In power since 2015, 64-year-old Lungu faces a potentially tight contest against Hakainde Hichilema – known as “HH” – businessman who has criticised the incumbent’s economic management.

While Hichilema has shown a desire to tackle the debt problems and engage with investors, Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) for years sought to avoid an IMF programme, noted Christian Libralato, emerging markets portfolio manager at Blue Bay Asset Management.

“Investors may see a potentially clearer path to an IMF programme and a debt restructuring under HH,” said Libralato, whose firm holds Zambia’s defaulted bonds.

Zambia owes in excess of $12 billion to external creditors and spends 30%-40% of its revenues just meeting the interest payments on its debt, credit rating firm S&P Global estimates. Its debt-to-GDP ratio was near 120% last year, one of the highest in emerging markets and probably double the level considered to be manageable.

Zambia said in May it had reached a broad agreement with the IMF on macroeconomic and fiscal targets and policy issues during talks to secure lending, setting the stage for what investors hope will be a post-election deal. – additional reporting by Reuters.

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