Reflections on Zambia on New Zambia Electoral reforms

Reflections on Zambia on New Zambia Electoral reforms

We take a break from mirroring our local elections against the US elections, as all pointer are leading to a Hilary vs Trump duel, and reflect on our neighbours, Zambia. Ahead of the polls on August 11 later this year, President Edgar Lungu signed the new constitution into law on January 5 this year. Coming with it are new electoral reforms which we reflect on today:


  • Fixing of polling date: The new constitution has fixed the date of polling as the second Thursday of August every fifth year. In the past the President used to announce the date of holding elections in the fifth year which many stakeholders complained that it disadvantaged the opposition.


In Malawi the date of polling is also fixed in the Constitution as the third week of May in the fifth year. A fixed date makes planning for elections easy for the electoral commission unlike where the president is given powers to proclaim the date.


  • Election of vice president: The Zambia President used to appoint the vice-president and also had powers to fire. This means there were no running mates during elections. In the new Constitution, the presidential candidates will be required to declare the running mates who will also become the vice-president once voted into office. The president has also been stripped of powers to fire and appoint a vice-president.


In Malawi, presidential candidates declare their running mates during nomination. The running mate assumes the vice-presidency and the President cannot fire the deputy.  


However, the Malawian Constitution gives the State President powers to appoint a second vice-president if he considers it desirable in national interest to do so.


  • Vacancy in president’s office:  In Zambia the old law required holding of by-elections whenever the office of the president falls vacant for whatever reason that is provided for in the law. The current President Edgar Lungu was elected during by-elections held in January 2015.The new Constitution has removed this provision and now the vice-president will take over office and finish the remaining term.


In Malawi, the vice-president should takes over and finishes the remaining part of the term if a vacancy arises. If at any time both the office of President and vice-president become vacant then cabinet is required to elect among its members an Acting President and Acting First Vice-President who should hold office for not more than sixty days, or where four years of a presidential term have expired, for the rest of that presidential term.


  • Change of electoral system: Zambia has changed its electoral system from First-Past-The-Past to Two Round System also known as 50+1. This means that the winning presidential candidate will be expected amass more than 50 percent plus one vote of the total valid votes cast. Lungu narrowly won the election with 48.3 percent against Hichilema’s 46.6 percent.

Malawi uses First-Past-The-Post system whereby the one who gets more votes than other candidates carries the day regardless of the percentage to the total valid votes.

  • Citizenship of presidential candidates: the Zambian constitution has scrapped the requirement for all presidential candidates to have both their parents being born in Zambia. This is a law that was passed in the 1990s which many say was targeted at barring Zambia's founding father Dr. Kenneth Kaunda from participating in elections after he lost the 1991 democratic elections.

In Malawi, the laws are silent on parenthood of presidential candidates but require that the presidential candidate and his running mate to be a citizen by birth or descent. For Parliamentary, the Constitution requires the candidate to be a citizen of the Republic.  

These are some of the progressive reforms that Zambia has adopted this year. Going by the comparison it can be concluded that Malawi was already ahead.