by Kizito Sikuka – SANF 16 no 28
Incumbent President Edgar Lungu of Zambia has been declared winner of the 11 August presidential elections.
According to final elections results released by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) on 15 August, Lungu of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) garnered a total of 1,860,877 votes against 1,760,347 polled by his closest rival, Hakainde Hichilema of the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).
This was enough to secure at least 50 percent of the valid votes as per the amendment to the Zambian Constitution adopted in January.
Lungu amassed 50.3 percent of the valid votes cast against Hichilema got 47.67 percent of the votes.
Under the previous Zambian Constitution, the president was elected using a first-past-the post system under which the candidate with the highest number of votes was elected, even if they scored less than 50 percent of the valid votes cast.
The re-election of Lungu also means that the incumbent Vice-President Inonge Wina, who was his running mate, retains her position.
In the past, a vice-president was appointed by the president. In this regard, the introduction of running mates to the new Constitutional will allow the vice-president to become president in the event of the incumbent being incapacitated to lead the country.
Under the constitutional amendment, the vice-present can assume power for the remainder of the president’s tenure.
Such a development avoids the need for early elections as was the case last year following the death of President Michael Sata in October 2014. Early elections were also held in October 2008 after President Levy Mwanawasa died in June of the same year.
Most regional and international election observers deployed across the country to observe the closely contested polls have said the elections were held in conformity with regional and international standards.
A preliminary statement released by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission (SEOM) said the elections were credible and praised Zambians for the peaceful atmosphere prior and during the poll.
“The aim of the mission was to assess the level of preparedness of the country to hold the 2016 General Elections,” said the SEOM headed by Oldemiro Baloi, Mozambican Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister.
“In this respect, the mission established that the political atmosphere and security environment were generally conducive for holding peaceful elections.”
A total of 49 SADC observers, who were divided into 12 teams, were deployed to all the 10 provinces of Zambia to observe the elections in three phases: the pre-election period, election-day and post-election phases.
The SEOM was guided by provisions and requirements of the Zambian Constitution, as well as the SADC Treaty, the SADC Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
A preliminary report issued by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa observer mission concurred with the SEOM report, adding that “Election Day was commendably characterised by a generally peaceful atmosphere and high voter turnout including that of women, elderly and youth.”
“The mission commends the Electoral Commission of Zambia for undertaking its responsibilities efficiently before, during and after the polls leading to the successful holding of complex polls conducted under a new constitutional dispensation; and also on its efforts to ensure a secure and free process throughout the elections.”
Regional and international election observers have urged Zambia to maintain the peace after the polls to ensure socio-economic development.
However, the UPND has raised concerns over the transparency of the elections.
A total of 4,426,369 people had registered to vote in the 11 August elections. However, only 2,492,999 cast their vote according the ECZ. This translates to a voter turnout of 56.32 percent.
In addition to Lungu and Hichilema, seven other candidates contested the presidential elections.
These are former Finance Minister Edith Nawakwi of the Forum for Democracy and Development, who was the only female candidate and got 24,149 votes; Tilyenji Kaunda of the United National Independence Party (8,928 votes); and former justice minister Wynter Kabimba leader of the Rainbow Party (9,504 votes).
Saviour Chishimba of the United Progressive Party (9,221 votes); Peter Sinkamba of Green Party of Zambia (4,515 votes); Andyford Banda of the People’s Alliance for Change (15,791 votes); and Maxwell Mwamba of the Democratic Assembly (2,378 votes) complete the list of presidential candidates.
Results for parliamentary elections are still being counted and will be announced soon.
Among the 650 parliamentary candidates who contested the 11 August elections, a total of 109 contested as independents.
The historic 2016 general elections were held concurrently with a referendum to decide on whether the Zambian Constitution should be amended to enhance the Bill of Rights as well as repeal and replace Article 79 that deals with issues that need to be put to a referendum.
Under Article 79, only the Bill of Rights and the Article itself require the holding of a referendum in order to amend them. The proposal is to broaden the issues requiring referenda, to include changes to the electoral system, the presidential term, election of the vice president, and appointment of cabinet ministers and provincial ministers.
The amendment of the constitution is meant to, among other objectives, pave way for the revision of the Bill of Rights to include civil, political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, further and special rights.
President Lungu is expected to be inaugurated this week as Zambia’s sixth president since the country got its independence from Britain on 24 October 1964.
Lungu took over power in 2015 after a presidential by-election following the death of former president Michael Sata in 2014. sardc.net