Zambia’s offseason election

Zambia normally votes in September or October. However, the country’s constitution mandates an early election to fill the remainder of a term when a president leaves office early–notwithstanding the existence of a vice president, who takes over only on an interim basis.

Earlier this week, the country went to the polls to elect a new president (and vice president, I assume) to fill the vacancy left by the death in October of President Michael Sata, elected in 2011. The replacement will sit till the end of 2016.

The rainy season can make travel in Zambia difficult:

A lot of the camps in Zambia are closed from the 1st December right through to mid-May on an annual basis, due to the roads being impassable because of the heavy rains.

Those who have to transport ballots are not immune to these seasonal travel challenges. Thus the results of the election are going to take a while longer to be known, while the boats and oxen are deployed.

In countries with rough weather seasons and limited infrastructure in parts of the territory, fixed election dates seem like a good idea. Having a vice president to fill out a term also seems like a good idea in such countries. Why Zambia has a vice presidency and yet a provision for interim elections is puzzling to me–especially as special election can come up at inopportune seasons.

The election is apparently close. Edgar Lungu, the candidate of Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF), is leading, but not by much. (Aside: odd that results are being released while voting is ongoing.) Hakainde Hichilema (who had run a distant third in the 2011 presidential election) of the United Party for National Development (UPND) is very close behind. No party won a majority in the congress elected concurrently with Sata in 2011, but the UPND is the third largest party, with only 28 of 150 seats, against 60 for the PF and 55 for the Movement for Multi-party Democracy. With numbers like that, a Hichilema victory could make for stormy executive-legislative relations.

One thought on “Zambia’s offseason election

  1. Also odd: the Vice-President and then acting President, Guy Scott, was not eligible to run in the special election because his parents were not born in Zambia. Strange that he was eligible to be VP, but not Pres. I guess that shows that the VP is only ever expected to be a caretaker until an election can be held.

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