ZAMBIA may plunge into an electoral crisis if a presidential candidate resigns or dies days before the August 12 general elections, some prominent lawyers have said.State Counsel Sakwiba Sikota and Attorney General Likando Kalaluka have said that legal and logistical challenges may make it impossible to hold the elections if a resignation or death occurs just before the elections.
They have blamed it on the politicisation of Constitutional Amendment Bill 10 that sought to resolve the matter but was shot down by the United Party for National Development (UPND) and its sympathisers.Article 52 (6) of the Constitution states: “Where a candidate dies, resigns or becomes disqualified in accordance with Article 70, 100 or 153 or a court disqualifies a candidate for corruption or malpractice, after the close of nominations and before the election date, the Electoral Commission shall cancel the election and require the filing of fresh nominations by eligible candidates and elections shall be held within thirty days of the filing of the fresh nominations.”Elections will have to be held within 30 days of the filing of the fresh nominations.
Mr Sikota said in an interview yesterday that the most problematic election would be at presidential level because the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) would have to change the date.“For example, let’s say there was a death five days before the elections, clearly, it is not possible to get fresh nominations done and ballot papers done and distributed all over the country. It is just simply logistically not possible.
If that were to happen, it would mean there would be a postponement. No matter how much you desire that it takes place, it would not be possible,” he said.ECZ recently cancelled nominations for Lusaka Central, Mpulungu and Mandevu constituencies and candidates have to file fresh papers following the death and withdrawal of some contenders
The latest candidates to withdraw from the race to Parliament are Democratic Party’s Mafinga candidate Binwell Muwowo and his Liberation Movement counterpart in Chawama, Ntazana Musukuma.Mr Sikota said the commission will have to follow what the current Constitution states when dealing with such issues even when a candidate withdraws a week before the elections.“I remember when I went to monitor some elections in Tanzania some years ago, a presidential candidate died.
They could not hold the election on the intended day.“If we are found in a similar situation, it is impossible to get new ballot papers printed fast after fresh nominations are called and later distribute to all polling stations,” he said.Mr Kalaluka said it is unfortunate that the Constitution Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019, which could have cured some lacunas the country is currently facing, was opposed and rejected.
The UPND held a celebration at the residence of its presidential candidate, Hakainde Hichilema, when the bill was defeated in Parliament. The party accused the Patriotic Front of wanting to use the bill to manipulate elections.Mr Kalaluka said ECZ will have to follow what Article 52(6) of the Constitution says in an event a presidential or parliamentary candidate dies, resigns or is disqualified from the race.
Mr Kalaluka said the Constitution clearly outlines what is expected to happen and doing anything contrary would be in breach of the law.“These are some of the issues we proposed to be addressed in the proposed amendments (Bill 10), but then it did not go through. So we have to live with the current one,” he said.Political scientist David Kapoma said candidates will plunge the country into chaos if they continue withdrawing from the race.
Mr Kapoma said politicians need to have integrity and put the country before self.He said currently, there is nothing else that can be done apart from cancelling an election and calling for fresh nominations if a candidate resigns.“We need to call for order and sincerity among politicians. These candidates knew what they wanted when they were contesting on their particular tickets, but look at what is happening,” he said.
Another political scientist, Musiyani Sichone, said ECZ should find a strategy of allowing political parties that have suffered setbacks to field candidates without paying the nomination fees again. But UPND Monze Central aspiring candidate Jack Mwiimbu said the window for presidential candidates to withdraw has already passed.
Source: The Candidates Online Media