Contested poll sparks Zambia leadership vacuum
From ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – ZAMBIA is on the brink of a constitutional crisis weeks after polls whose outcome the main opposition is contesting in court citing violence and vote rigging.
President Edgar Lungu’s slim victory in the August 11 election after a campaign blighted by skirmishes, intimidation and alleged public media bias has culminated in contention over who should run the Southern Africa country.
Experts pointed out this is because of a constitutional provision that requires that an incumbent or president-elect should not exercise executive powers once a legal petition is filed challenging their election.
The opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) led by Hakainde Hichilema is contesting the result.
Patriotic Front leader Lungu polled 50,35 % of the total valid votes cast.
His closest rival, Hichilema got 47,6 %.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said while the country’s new constitution stipulates the Constitutional Court should hear presidential electoral petitions within 14 days, there is no stipulated timeframe for the verdict.
“There is also political uncertainty with regards to the formation of government, and ambiguity over the future of the referendum process,”
Dimpho Motsamai, ISS Senior Researcher, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis, said.
She noted the legal standoff has created political uncertainty in the leading copper producer and has the potential to trigger a constitutional crisis on several grounds.
Lungu should vacate office for an interim period and hand over power to the Speaker of Parliament, Patrick Matibini. Cases where the electoral outcome is petitioned in the courts are dealt with in Article 104 (3) of the country’s constitution.
Lungu has refused to vacate office despite the opposition contending he has no mandate to run the country of some 16 million. Violence broke out in opposition strongholds following the announcement of the results.
– CAJ News
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