Zambians flock to polling stations

The two top contenders are Defence Minister Edgar Lungu and opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema.

Opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema, of the United Party for National Development (UPND) party, casts his ballot on 20 January, 2015 in Lusaka. Picture: AFP.

LUSAKA - Zambians flocked to the polls on Tuesday to choose the next leader of one of Africa's most promising frontier markets following the death of Michael Sata in office last year.

Sata died in London last year, where he had been receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness.

The two top contenders are Defence Minister Edgar Lungu, representing the ruling Patriotic Front and opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development.

At stake, is the remaining year-and-a-half of Sata's five-year term in Africa's second biggest copper producer where new taxes on the metal have become a surprising election issue.

Lungu's party introduced the tax in January, while Hichilema has promised to scrap it, pledging a business-friendly Zambia.

Registered Zambians started voting at around 6am this morning.

There's a sense of excitement over what could well be a close race, according to pundits.

Lungu and Hichilema are both favourites from the 11 presidential candidates vying for the post.

But some Zambians say they're not able to vote this time round.

The country is hoping the new leader will have a successful and healthy term given that two presidents have died in office in just the last few years.

Lungu's campaign has focused on tapping into the grassroots support base of Sata, a populist leader from the majority Bemba tribe who won over the working class by funding infrastructure projects in poor, rural areas.

"Michael Sata is still in the PF. We shall honour him to the letter," Lungu told supporters at his final rally in Lusaka.

Hichilema, one of Zambia's wealthiest businessmen known locally as "HH", says he will draw on his experience in the private sector to attract foreign investment and diversify an economy, where copper accounts for 70 percent of export earnings

He has also promised free education for all, in a move aimed at gaining support among poorer Zambian voters.

"When your car has a problem you go to a mechanic. You need an economist like myself to fix the economy," Hichilema told his supporters at a rally on Monday, clad in Zambia's orange national soccer shirt.