#ZambiaDecides: Six things you really should know about Thursday's polls

​On 11 August, Zambians head to the polls in an historic five-ballot election. Here's what you should know.

Zambia’s 11 August polls will combine presidential, parliamentary and local government polls and a constitutional referendum on proposed amendments to the Bill of Rights. Zambians will be voting not just for their president but for their Cabinet representative, mayoral candidate and local government representative. 

These elections are seen as the most fiercely contested since the early nineties. Although Zambia is hailed as one of Africa’s successful democracies, making its elections of particular interest to observers - a shaky economy and reports of violence and intimidation coupled with phantom voters have raised the stakes. Here are six things you need to know about Zambia’s elections.

1. Amendments

After an amendment to the constitution eight months ago, these elections are the first to be organised under a new electoral legal framework

2. The by-election that brought Lungu to power

On Thursday Zambians head to the polls to elect a president for the second time in 19 months. Zambia holds elections after every five years. Incumbent Edgar Lungu was elected in January 2015 after the death of Michael Sata in October 2014. His death prompted a special by-election organised within 90 days as stipulated by law. Lungu of Zambia’s ruling party - the Patriotic Front (PF), barely won the by-election and is seeking to extend his rule for another five years.

3. Oddities 

Each consecutive Zambian president has served a shorter term in office than his predecessor. Kenneth Kaunda leads the way, having been president for 27 years and nine days. He is followed by Frederick Chiluba  who held power for 10 years and 61 days. Levy Mwanawasa was president for six years and 230 days, Rupiah Banda kept his position for three years and 86 days and finally Michael Sata was in power for three years and 35 days before his death in 2014.

4. Fitness tests

Two sitting presidents have died in office and one after standing down, giving way to calls for the four presidential candidates - Edgar Lungu, Hakainde Hichilema, Edith Nawakwi and Nevers Mumba, to undergo medical tests to prove they are fit to hold office. The debate was sparked by an accusation by Chongwe MP Sylvia Masebo claiming Lungu is unfit to hold public office. Masebo defected from the governing Patriotic Front (PF).

5. The ConCourt Judges 

The appointment of six constitutional court judges in February 2016 by Edgar Lungu has come under scrutiny after it emerged that none of the six met the requirements to serve in the constitutional court. The six are: Hildah Chibomba, Margaret Munalula, Mugeni Mulenga, Anne Mwewa-Sitali, Enoch Mulembe and Palan Mulonda. Of the six appointees, two were classmates of Lungu’s at the law school he attended in the 1970s. Another is a relative of President Lungu. The ConCourt has the final say on all election disputes provoking fears, Lungu may use the ConCourt to make decisions that allow him to retain power despite a dispute in the results. 

6. The running-mate provision

For the first time, each candidate is required to have a vice-presidential running mate to remove the need to hold costly by-elections in the event of a president’s death or resignation. 


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