By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba
I have noted a flurry of persons declaring that they will stand as independent presidential candidates in the forth-coming General Elections due on August 12th.
In the past, independent presidential candidates were forbidden as it was explicitly provided for in the Constitution that a presidential candidate, among other qualifications, needed to be sponsored by a political party.
For unknown reasons, or omission, this provision is no longer available under Article 101 and Article 30 of the Constitution of Zambia which provide for the qualifications of a presidential candidate and vice president.
I also looked at Part V of the Constitution that provide for both the Electoral System and Electoral Process.
I also looked at the role of political parties (Article 60) whose key functions among others, is to nominate persons to a state office in respect of national elections.
I also perused the provisions of Article 68 that provides for the composition of the National Assembly.
The Constitution, however provides for the position of a candidate wishing to stand as an independent Member of Parliament, and Article 51 provides;
Art 51. “A person is eligible for election as an independent candidate for a National Assembly seat if the person”—
(a) “is not a member of a political party and has not been a member of a political party for at least two months immediately before the date of the election; and (b) meets the qualifications specified in Article 70 for election as a Member of Parliament.”
However there are no similar provisions for an independent person to stand as a presidential candidate.
Under the amended 2016 Constitution and the Electoral Act, it is clear that a presidential candidate may not require the endorsement or sponsorship of a political party.
The only requirement among the usual stated qualifications under the Constitution but provided for under the Electoral Act, is that such a candidate must bring and have the endorsement of 100 registered voters drawn from each of the ten provinces of Zambia.
Another limiting factor may be the nomination fees for presidential candidates(K95,000).
But however this is big!
What it means, and if my interpretation is correct, is that we are going to have an unregulated high number of persons seeking to stand as presidential candidates, and the number may reach a nuisance level!
What is your view about an independent presidential candidate? Do you think it is workable in Zambia? Do you think Zambia should accept this scenario? Will the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) manage if a huge number of persons submit as independent presidential candidates? Do we need to seek the interpretation of the Constitution Court on the matter relying on old practice?
Have your say.