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LUSAKA: Zambians will decide Thursday whether to re-elect President Edgar Lungu after the country's worst economic performance in decades and a crackdown on dissent that has raised fears of unrest.

His main rival, in what polls suggest is a close election race, is 59-year-old Hakainde Hichilema, making his sixth run for the presidency.

Hichilema has already narrowly lost to Lungu twice: in a 2015 by-election after the death of ex-president Michael Sata and then in general polls the following year.

Lungu deployed the army following clashes between the rival supporters in the run-up to presidential and parliamentary polls, a move critics denounced as a tactic to intimidate opposition voters.

His Patriotic Front (PF) party spokesman Antonio Mwanza, claimed Tuesday that the opposition "is using violence" to "undermine the electoral process" and to intimidate people so they do not turn out in numbers to cast ballots.

Analysts say the result of the closely fought election will set the tone for investment in the copper-rich southern African nation, where more than half of its 17 million people live in poverty.

Surveys suggest economic hardship has eroded support for Lungu, accused of borrowing unsustainably to finance flashy infrastructure projects, as living costs soared.

In the capital Lusaka, Lungu's green Patriotic Front (PF) party manifestos have dominated billboards lining newly built freeways and overpass bridges.

Opposition voters, whose party colour is red, are keeping a low profile in the city, traditionally a PF stronghold. Some of them even wear green to avoid trouble - known as the "watermelon tactic".

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