Since the introduction of a multi-party system in 1991, Zambia has managed to hold six successful elections and has enjoyed peaceful transitions of power by its consecutive governments. But even in 2015 Zambia still suffers from the insufficient management of resources. Despite its abundance of natural resources ranging from minerals, fisheries, tourism and  forestry, due to the ineffective implementation of policies, the country has been mismanaged; its economy depends solely on copper mining. Although the agriculture sector is thriving, farmers are unable to attain meaningful incomes because of various obstacles such as poor road networks leading to the markets, exploitative low prices offered by buyers and the lack of agriculture extension services.

Political Unrest Overshadows Campaign 

However, the peace which Zambians have been enjoying seems to be under threat. Recent political campaigns have been characterised by stone carrying and machete wielding cadres from different political parties. Especially the front runners, the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and the opposition United Party for National Development (UNPD), clashed and fought with one another.

The roots of this dispute reach back to 2011 when the PF and the UPND, which made up the coalition government in power at the time, could not agree on a common nominee for the last presidential elections or for possible cabinet positions. In the end PF's candidate Sata was able to collect enough votes to win and rule without the help of the UPND, which caused some mistrust on the side of the latter.

Meanwhile the violent campaigns prompted the Independent Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to issue a warning. ECZ spokesperson Chris Akufuna said:

If acts of violence escalate, we shall be compelled to suspend campaigns as well as postpone the elections until political parties put their houses in order.

Acting President Guy Scott said that the escalating levels of violence had the potential to undermine the credibility of the elections. Law Association of Zambia president George Chisanga advised political parties to refrain from engaging in violent activities. “We are concerned with this unbecoming behaviour and we urge all players to allow tolerance of divergent views,” he said. Zambian Police Inspector General Stella Libongani says the police will apply maximum security in order to protect voters against acts of intimidation.

Menschenmenge bei Wahlkampfveranstaltung

Constitutional Causes for a Recurring Problem

This is the second Presidential election being held in Zambia due to a President dying in office. In 2008, President Levy Mwanawasa also died in office while attending an African Union summit in Egypt and his Vice President Rupiah Banda was elected as President after a hotly contested battle against Sata.

President Sata was then elected in 2011 with a mandate until 2016. The elections caused by his death could have been avoided if the PF government had enacted the current draft constitution. It would have mandated a presidential running mate, who as Vice President would have succeeded Sata in office after his death. Among other campaign promises, Sata assured that he would deliver a good constitution within 90 days of assuming office, although this did not happen. Even though Sata appointed Guy Scott as his Vice President, Scott cannot contest elections because he is barred by a clause in the Constitution which provides that both parents must have been born in Zambia. Scott’s parents came from Scotland.

Although the current constitution concedes great powers to the President,  people would like to see the reduction of these powers. However, the enactment of a new constitution has been delayed repeatedly by the recent governments; the President has powers to decide when to have a new constitution or not, as well as also having powers to appoint a committee that can collect submissions from people and draft a constitution that will be sent to the President, and then referred to parliament for enactment.

Former election campaigns have been based on poverty reduction, economic empowerment for women and creating youth employment as well as enacting a people-driven constitution. The desire for a new constitution is a burning issue and any political party that doesn’t outline a plan of action risks losing votes.

Eleven Parties are Contesting

A total of 11 political parties are contesting the elections including the ruling PF, UPND, Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), which ruled the country from 1991 to 2011, Forum for Democratic Alternatives (FDA), Green Party, Fourth Revolution, National Restoration Party (NAREP), Forum for Democracy for Development (FDD), United National Independence Party (UNIP), which ruled from 1964 to 1991, Christian Democratic Party (CDP) and Heritage Party.

Of these parties, only the FDD has a female candidate, Edith Nawakwi. Four of these parties, namely the CDP, Green Party, FDA and Fourth Revolution are participating in an election for the first time. Furthermore, the election proves to be the end of the era of people who participated in the struggle for independence. Only one of the eleven candidates, Ludwig Sondashi of the Forum for Democratic Alternatives (FDA), is 71 years old, while the rest are all less than 55 years old.

Wahlplakat von Hichilemas Partei UNDP

Lungu and Hichilema - the Two Leading Candidates

The PF’s candidate Edgar Lungu, who is also Defence and Justice Minister, has released a plan of action for enacting a good and durable constitution once voted into power. Lungu has also pledged to continue with late President Sata’s massive infrastructural projects in road construction and the building of schools and hospitals across the country.

These elections will also be the fourth attempt for the UPND’s billionaire leader Hakainde Hichilema, having contested and lost in 2006, 2008 and 2011. He said that the UPND would create real jobs for young people and would ensure that education becomes the best investment for Zambians. At a recent Presidential debate organised by Action Aid Zambia, Muvi Television and Hot FM Radio Hichilema said:

I am an example of a poor child that benefited from education. It is important to know that seeking public leadership requires vision. It does not work to use moral persuasion to run the country. Elect us to unite Zambia which the PF has divided.

Nevertheless, Hichilema has failed to outline how his government will provide free education up to university level, in a country that with considerable economic challenges cannot manage to subsidize education in the same way that it could during the one party system which existed when Hichilema went to school.

However, the UPND’s Hichilema has turned out to be a strong contender, especially since some of the senior officials of the MMD and other smaller parties have proclaimed their support for him, manoeuvring the party away from the tribal corner it has been seen in due to its historic affiliation with the Tonga people of Southern Zambia.

Due to the relatively advantageous resources that the ruling party have at hand, it is expected that the PF will emerge as the winner of the election and Lungu will complete Sata’s mandate. The winner of the 2015 elections on the 20th of January is most likely to emerge victorious in the general elections set for 2016 as well, which will be held after the 2011 mandate officially runs out.

Candidates with Various Motivations

Nawakwi, the only female candidate who also served as a cabinet minister between 1991 and 2001, said that Africa in general and Zambia in particular were led by good people under bad constitutions.

What we need is a good constitution. We need a constitution that will check the excesses of the President. This country needs a good constitution and please don't look for a good person, look for a good constitution.

MMD’s Nevers Mumba seems to be having a tough time after senior MPs switched their allegiances to the UPND. Senior MMD officials including two Vice Presidents wanted former President Rupiah Banda to stand on the party ticket but Mumba went to court, which ruled in his favour and this made those MPs decide to support the UPND instead. Banda himself has declared his support for PF’s Lungu. MPs do command some form of support in their respective regions and this becomes a deciding factor when elections are held. Nevertheless, Mumba, who is also a pastor, has remained resolute, promising to bring sanity to the political arena.

The Green Party’s Peter Sinkamba has surprised many by promising to legalise the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes. “We intend to raise US $15 billion from marijuana and we shall create 200,000 jobs from this venture, we need to look outside the box and not just depend on mining,” he said.

At 71 years old, FDA’s Sondashi, who is a lawyer and a herbalist has promised to give people his ‘Sondashi Formula-SF2000’ free of charge once elected. According to some clinical trials, the SF2000 can mitigate the effects of HIV and AIDS.