The presidential elections in Zambia were held in August 2016. Overall, it all went well, despite the fear of protest and unrest. But 7 weeks after the elections, the fear is still rampant and there are still signs of unrest in some places.
Zambia has been a stable democracy for a long time – and people are still united behind the slogan “One Zambia, One Nation”, showing their wish for unity amongst all the ethnies in the country.
So, why is there still discussions about the elections? There are 2 strong parties and the poll (and results) were very tight. We have to go back a couple of years, when the then president died in office. The constitution states that a president will be elected to finish the term, and the next election will then occur as planned (every 5 years).
Already at the time, last year elections were tinted with suspicion of corruption, President Lungu being elected with a mere 1.5% difference in votes (48.3% against 46.7% for his rival Hakainde Hichilema, known as HH).
This year elections were no different. And the suspicions were there even during the campaign. Back in July, there was a very interesting article in Namibia, speaking of alleged fraud plans, and looking at some activities that are seen to favour the ruling party.
During the campaign, and just before election days, people were arrested for corruption (buying votes) in some villages (I was in one, and this made the news there). Frictions came between partisans of both parties, even if not to the point of turning the nation to riot.
A few points are shadowing the results:
Results of the elections were very close, just enough to claim victory: 50.35% vs 47.63% (about 100’000 votes). Any result under 50% would have called for a second election.
The delay in the elections results were explained by some as the time that was needed to change the ballot (http://zambianeye.com/archives/51962), and that Mr Lungu could see his defeat at the time.
The opposition party submitted a petition to contest the results, but this was ruled out by the Supreme Court, allegedly under the ruling party pressure.
The inauguration of President Lungu took place on 13 September 2016, 1 month after the elections. The climate in town was fairly quiet. But dis-contentment against the inauguration were heard up to the day, going as far as calling President Lungu a dictator.
Very few other countries accepted the invitation to the inauguration, and most of the ones who did sent a representative, not the president.
The international community and observers are not convinced of fair elections.
The speech given by the represent from SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) was made by His Excellency President R. Mugabe from Zimbabwe… the speech was a very good one (albeit slow, he is 94 y.o.), talking about the free and fair elections etc… But it did seem odd coming from him at a time of unrest in his own country, after being accused repeatedly of election fraud during his 36 years of power and being listed as a world dictator.
Today, 2 weeks after inauguration, there are still tensions, especially in the townships and partisans of the opposition party are still disputing the results. Police have been making a number of arrests in the past couple of days, we can hear the sirens quite often. Oppositions and ruling party citizens are reporting threats to their life.
Living here does not show any risk per say – but the tension is still there. Let’s hope that the country will remain united over the next 5 years, still believing in their motto “One Zambia, One Country”, which was adopted in 1964.
Very interesting read related to the history of Zambian politics and its motto “One Zambia, One Nation”: https://politicalmatter.org/2016/04/19/one-zambia-one-nation-the-legacy-of-kenneth-kaunda-by-derrick-m-muwina/
If you are interested for more, here some of the news highlights:
2015 results: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30970952