LUSAKA (Zambia): An alliance of Zambia's main opposition parties on Sunday called on President Edgar Lungu to concede as early election results showed their candidate leading the tightly-fought poll.
Results from around 40 of the constituencies that have so far reported place the veteran 59-year-old opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, ahead of Lungu, who is 64.
Hakainde, who leads the largest opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), enjoyed the backing of 10 opposition parties at the Thursday polling under the banner of the UPND Alliance.
"We ask you (Lungu) for once to act in a statesman-like manner by quickly conceding to your brother Hakainde Hichilema so that the process of handover and reconciliation of this nation can begin," Charles Milupi, chairman of the UPND Alliance told reporters.
The electoral commission has so far released the results of 62 out of 156 constituencies, which put Hichilema ahead with 1,024,212 votes, compared to 562,523 for Lungu.
Final results should be released by early Monday at the latest.
This is the third time Hichilema has challenged Lungu in the closely-fought election amid growing resentment about rising living costs and crackdowns on dissent in the southern African country.
But Lungu had on Saturday the election declared the polls neither free nor fair, citing incidents of violence that occurred in UPND strongholds.
The opposition scoffed at Lungu's "unsubstantiated" claims.
"The mere fact that ordinary voters... reacted against your (Patriotic Front party)... officials trying to do wrong things, does not constitute an illegality," said Milupi.
International election observers have overall commended the transparent and peaceful organisation of the polls, but condemned the restrictions on freedoms of assembly and movement.
Security forces blocked Hichilema from campaigning in several parts of the country, including the strategic Copperbelt Province, citing breaches of coronavirus measures and a public order act.
Hichilema on Sunday called for peace, tweeting: "With victory in sight, I'd like to ask for calm from our members and supporters".
"We voted for change for a better Zambia that's free from violence and discrimination," he wrote on Twitter.
Milupi fell short of claiming victory for the opposition, but urged Zambians to prepare for Hichilema's inauguration.