By AT News Team, Jan. 25, 2015:   Last night Edgar Lungu was declared the winner of the presidential election in the central African nation of Zambia, according to the respected international news service Reuters. This means that his leading opponent, Hakainde Hichilema, an Adventist, one of the wealthiest men in the country and an economist by training, has lost the election.

Final results were 801,342 votes (51 percent) for Lungu and 762,861 for Hichilema (49 percent) stated Zambia Reports. There will likely be challenges to the election despite the fact that “observers said [it] was conducted in a fair manner,” according to Reuters. Hichilema met with the Electoral Commission of Zambia and told journalists after the meeting that had urged the commission to delay declaring final results “until all the outstanding issues raised in the meeting are addressed,” said Zambia Reports.

Lungu was the candidate of the Patriotic Front which is aligned with Robert Mugabe, the long-time dictator in neighboring Zimbabwe. Lungu also had the support of former Zambia President Rupiah Banda.

Only a third of the eligible voters turned out in a week plagued with massive rains. The election was scheduled for Tuesday (Jan. 20) and extended to Wednesday and Thursday because of the difficulty of getting ballots to some remote villages. It was a special election called after the death of former President Michael Sata in October to fill out the last year of his term. The new President Lungu has been serving as minister of defense and minister of justice in Sata’s cabinet while Guy Scott, a white settler who was elected as vice president with Sata, has been the interim president.

Hichilema has run for president in three previous elections. He came in third all three times, gaining 25 percent of the votes in 2006, 20 percent in 2008 and 18 percent in 2011. In 2006 he ran as the candidate of a coalition called the United Democratic Alliance, and in 2008 and 2011 he ran as the candidate of the United Party for National Development (UPND).

The UPND party has a symbol that includes an outstretched hand and some have made the allegation that it is related to the Masonic Order. This resulted in a negative reaction among some Adventists in Zambia. A letter by an “Elder Brown Bwalya Chofwe” who identified himself as “a baptized and fully committed member of [the] Seventh-day Adventist church” in the Lusaka Times appealed to Pastor Harrington Akombwa, the denomination’s top official in the country as president of the Zambia Union Conference, to stay out of the election campaign. The basis of the complaint, according to the writer, was news reports that “Adventists are offended” by allegations that Hichilema “is a Satanist.”

Chofwe wrote that he “found it gross that the whole church management spent its precious time … to get involved into issues of politics.” He also wrote that “the church has no legal right to prove that HH is not a Satanist or Masonic.” It is unclear if the writer’s use of the title “Elder” is a reference to a clergy role or that of a local elder. No one by that name is listed in the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook but because that reference work no longer includes Licensed Ministers that is not complete proof as to the writer’s status.

Zambia Reports published an opinion piece on January 16 by a Zambian living and working New York City which stated that “the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Zambia is poised to drop … HH as an elder” because “some members believe that HH’s continued stay as an elder in the church whilst carrying an alleged satanic freemason tag will have severe repercussions on the Church and its outreach.”

The article pointed out that the Adventist faith “is one of the largest Churches in Zambia.” It also stated that “Zambians do not take satanism or Freemasonry easily, especially the Pentecostals who happen to be one of the strongest voting blocs.” It described Hichilema as “standing against the … Christian candidate … Lungu” and stated that he “has not come out in the open except to say that he doesn’t know who the freemasons are.”

The campaigns have been ongoing in Zambia since November 14 last year and evidently created considerable discussion among Adventists and about the Adventist connection of the man who ends up being the number two candidate. Adventists in the United States may be faced with a similar situation in 2016 if Dr. Ben Carson, an Adventist physician, is nominated by the Republican Party, although the issues will be entirely unlike those mentioned above.