Zambia: Will President Lungu postpone the elections due to illness?

By The Africa Report
Posted on Thursday, 15 July 2021 14:00

In this Wednesday, 25 Sept. 2019 file photo Zambia's President Edgar Chagwa Lungu addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. (AP Photo/Richard Drew.File)

Zambia's presidential elections are scheduled for 12 August, but the violence the country is currently facing is putting the credibility of these elections in doubt.

The perpetrators are thugs and police of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) Party. Opposition party members are being beaten and arrested, and their campaigns barred.

“No one knows how the banning of public rallies and roadshows, a key part of previous campaigns, will affect the voting. It is likely to favour the PF because of its control of state television and radio, from which the opposition is effectively barred,” reports Africa Confidential. 

On 28 June, Amnesty International released a report in which it stated that Zambia was in a ‘human rights crisis’ after five years of ‘ruling by fear and repression.’

Furthermore, private media outlets tend to work with the ruling party and are subject to attack if they feature members of the opposition.

However, recently, the United Party for National Development (UPND) led by main opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema went to court with the Electoral Commission of Zambia, asking for the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation to give each political party in the run the same amount of airtime.

“The High Court agreed and gave the commission until 30 June to finalise ways of implementing its judgement,” reports Africa Confidential. 

What is likely to happen in the elections?

There are sixteen presidential aspirants, but only two are really in the run: current President Edgar Lungu (although there are rumours he wants to postpone the presidential polls due to illness) and his main rival for the two last elections – Hichilema.

Between them, they took 98% of the vote in 2016, and the same is likely to happen this time. The election outcome is expected to be:

  • Lungu and Hichilema will win most of the votes;
  • The Social Party’s Fred M’membe and Democratic Party’s Harry Kalaba are expected to win some votes in the places where they have put in the most effort;
  • Lungu will continue to be favoured in his home of the Eastern Province, as well as Luapula, Muchinga and northern provinces;
  • Hichilema will likely win in his own home, the Southern Province, as well the Western, north-wester, and central.

How serious is Lungu’s illness and will the polls be postponed?

Worries arose when President Lungu collapsed on 13 June during a large public event. Although he has avoided being seen since, at the funeral of Zambia’s founding president Kenneth Kaunda on 2 July, he was visibly ill.

However, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) only postpone presidential elections in the case of death or disqualification of a candidate.

Bottom line

It is unlikely that the presidential polls can be legally postponed due to President Lungu’s illness, but due to his violence and repression of the opposition, he will likely remain president, no matter when the elections are held.

The full version of this article can be found on Africa Confidential. 

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