Opposition surges ahead of critical vote

Opposition surges ahead of critical vote

Opposition surges ahead of critical vote

(Africa Confidential)

Some PF cadres have expressed doubts in private that their party could win a free and fair election; some concede that even with the ruling party’s advantages of incumbency along with the possibility of manipulation of the vote count and results transmission, the opposition could win.
We hear that some senior PF members have been critical of the party’s campaign and the party has been haemorrhaging support. Former finance minister Alexander Chikwanda has been particularly concerned, our sources say.
UPND presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema has been pulling large crowds, especially in the swing provinces of Lusaka and Copperbelt, according to witnesses. However, he is being prevented from flying in his campaign aircraft to many destinations on the campaign trail because aviation authorities frequently refuse to clear the flight plans he files, his supporters say. Independent polls such as Afrobarometer and analysts put Hichilema significantly ahead of the PF’s President Edgar Lungu.
There is a consensus among observers that UPND is in the lead in Southern, Western, Central and North Western Provinces while the PF is set to take Eastern, Northern, Luapula and Muchinga provinces.
Hichilema is also expected to make inroads into PF strongholds, including in Eastern province. Political analysts say it is likelier that Hichilema will make inroads into PF areas than the other way around. Former President Rupiah Banda, who is from Eastern province and retains significant influence there, has remained neutral in this election, which is interpreted as a snub to Lungu because he supported him in the last two elections.
From independent polling, interviews with voters and the turnout at rival party rallies, the UPND seems to have greatly boosted its support since the disputed 2016 elections when Hichilema lost to Lungu by less than 100,000 votes.
But it will take more than popular support to win. PF activists are determined to hang on to power. Some fear prosecution for corruption should Hichilema win, say some top PF sources.
The critical factors on Thursday 12 August are the turnout and possible fraud: not just the physical presence of voters at the polling booths but whether the late change of rules, such as the Electoral Commission of Zambia’s (ECZ) selective introduction of biometric voter verification in key urban constituencies, will deter voters.
These new rules could slow down voting in urban areas where the opposition has

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