A president chosen by the majority of the population?
Is Zambia about to get its first majority president?
Parliament has just adopted the new constitution, including the controversial 50%+1 clause for election of a president. This means that our future president must secure at least half of all votes to win, if not in the first round involving all candidates, then in the second round between the two leading candidates with the most votes.
Supporters say it will ensure a popular president, contrary to the current first-past-the-post system, where a candidate can win with a lot less than the majority of votes, as long as the rest of the votes are spread thinly between other presidential candidates.
The new system is certainly going to change the game. Zambia’s presidential elections may have many candidates, but two of them typically dominate, with this year’s presidential election being a case in points, as Edgar Lungu (PF) and Hakainde Hichilema (UPND) together took 95% of the votes. However, none of them got more than 50% of the votes.
This is important, as next year’s election will look similar – at least up until the result – which means that we are likely to see a rerun. To secure a majority the two candidates now have to lobby for support from the other candidates, their parties and voters, putting smaller parties such as MMD and FDD in an excellent position to gain some influence.
The PF clearly believes that the new system will work to its advantage, or rather to the disadvantage of the UPND, due to the latter’s support base being confined to Southern and Western Province – at least historically – as the UPND believes (with some basis in fact) that this is changing. If the rerun took place today, MMD would support PF, while FDD would go with UPND. Before this happens, however, we are likely to see a great deal of jobs, influence and money change hands, but whether or not this will result in a majority president being elected remains to be seen.
Camilla Hebo Buus, Editor Zambia Weekly