Zambia’s Constitutional Court ruled on Friday that President Edgar Lungu can stand for re-election in August, throwing out a second opposition challenge to his eligibility on the basis of the constitutional two-term limit.
The ruling comes as Zambia faces a multipronged economic crisis, after overleveraging its debt right before the brutal global COVID-19 shutdown. The crisis has triggered Africa’s first pandemic-era sovereign default and driven the southern African country to seek emergency IMF help.
President Lungu’s first inauguration was for a period of a year and six months, when he took over after the death of the previous elected president, Mr Michael Sata. He then won an election in in August 2016.
The opposition had argued that he is no longer eligible to run because he completed Mr Sata’s term — an argument which the court had already rejected in 2018, but a second concurrent case was still awaiting a decision.
“The first respondent’s nomination is valid and he is entitled to stand for election on August 12, 2021. The petitions have no merit,” the judgment read by Justice Anne Sitali said.
Zambia, Africa’s second largest copper producer, is grappling with economic woes that, owing to depressed commodity prices, started well before the pandemic pushed the country into recession.
That cloud may be lifting a little, as copper prices hover around decade highs, driven partly by the boom in electric cars, and last year, Zambia produced a record output of the metal.
Last month, the country reached an agreement with the IMF on conditions for a bailout.
Meanwhile, President Lungu has said that come the August 12 poll, he will not only exceed the required 50 percent-plus-one but will safely get 60 percent of the vote.
In a radio programme last week, President Lungu cited various infrastructure developments that have changed the face of Zambia and made quality education, health, housing and transport available.
“We first embarked on infrastructure development and we did just that and now we are working on rebuilding the economy,” he said.
He also observed that some opposition political leaders exhibited violent characteristics that made them unattractive to Zambians.
“Moreover, Zambians want peace. Imagine, I am the only one, and a few others, talking about peace, talking about not wanting violence in these campaigns. Yesterday, I saw some disturbing pictures on social media that were very annoying breaking vehicles, beating people in full view of even one opposition leader and I know Zambians cannot vote for such a guy, Zambians love peace. There is nothing for him here, so the truth of the matter is that we are winning and I have no doubt about that in my mind,” he said.President Lungu added: “When I first came in 2015 we won by 27,000 votes and 2016 we got 100,000-plus votes, this time 2021 we are getting 60 percent votes plus … it won’t be 50 percent-plus, it will be 60 percent-plus; and if they want a recount they will even find that it was 70-plus.” – Reuters/Lusaka Times