Zambian President Edgar Lungu signed Tuesday a constitutional amendment bill that set the next general election for August 11, as the country endures economic turmoil due to falling copper prices.
Lungu, who won narrowly elections in 2015 after the sudden death of president Michael Sata, could face a challenge for power from Hakainde Hichilema and the United Party for National Development (UPND).
The election will come after the sharp decline in the value of copper triggered a 42 percent slump in the kwacha against the dollar last year, with inflation soaring to over 20 percent.
The economy relies on copper, which makes up more than 70 percent of Zambia’s exports.
“The signing of this bill will remove the uncertainty surrounding the election date. We will vote on 11 August,” Lungu told thousands of spectators gathered at a sports stadium in the capital Lusaka.
The bill, which was approved by parliament last year, decreed that elections will be held every five years on the second Thursday in August.
Lungu, who leads the Patriotic Front party, held the signing ceremony at the Heroes Stadium, saying he wanted all citizens to be able to witness the “momentous occasion”.
“In seven months from now, we will once again be going to the polls to elect our leader — let there be no violence,” he said.
Kenneth Kaunda, who ruled between 1964 and 1991, was among those attending the signing.
In 2015, Lungu won power with 48.3 percent of the vote against Hichilema who polled 46.7 percent.
Under the new constitutional bill, a candidate will be required to garner 50 percent of the votes to be declared winner.
Lungu, who was elected last year to serve out the rest of Sata’s term, has previously said he expected to win in August by more than 70 percent.
In October, the president held a mass prayer meeting in the same stadium to appeal for divine help in the currency crisis.
Zambia, which has grown at seven percent annually in recent years, was seen as an African success story until the fall in copper prices and a series of government policy reversals undermined investor confidence.