PRESIDENTIAL AND PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN ZAMBIA





In August 11, Approximately 6.7 million Zambians have headed to the polls to participate in presidential and parliamentary elections. Hakainde Hichilema, the leader of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) is running against the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), which is led by the standing President Edgar Lungu.Lungu was the former Minister of Justice and Minister of Defence of Zambia, who took the seat after the death of the former president Michael Sata in 2014, is leading the polls in the capital Lusaka and Copper belt. On the other hand, Hichilema, a prominent businessman fairing in the private-sector, is going to get the majority of the votes in the southern states of the country.Despite that both sides reflected a strong level of confidence with their statements, the grave concerns that Hichilema voiced during the campaign process regarding the fairness of the build-up of the election and the election itself, raises many questions."We demand a free, fair, transparent and credible election," Hichilema said."Let the people of Zambia choose the leadership they want. We will do everything to maintain peace. We want our voters to turn out in large numbers and not fear being beaten by PF thugs out there."UPND also stated that PF cannot win the elections without resorting to fraud. As a response, Lungu has threatened to mobilise the army if the opposition rejects the results of the vote.Besides the accusations and threats that were thrown around, the campaign process was also heated by violent skirmishes between supporters of the PF and the UPND. Mainly galvanized by the pro-government groups, the violent events led the Organization of African Unity to launch an observation mission to the country. The government security forces also attacked the UPND supporters by opening fire, killing one, after the party refused to cancel a campaign meeting in Lusaka' Chawama area. As a result, The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) announced on Sunday that it was suspending campaigns in Lusaka and Namwala, south of the capital, until July 18 when the situation would be reviewed. However, no candidate or party was restricted from entering the election.This is also a historic vote since for the first time it isn't enough that a presidential candidate gets a simple majority. In order to become President, the candidates need to get more than 50 percent. It' also the first time that candidates have had running mates. The main reason for this is to avoid extra elections because in the past decade two presidents have died in office and because they didn't have running mates - elected vice presidents –the country had to hold extra elections. Considering that this is the fifth election Zambia has held in a decade, this precaution seems quite reasonable.With the political shift it entered in 2011 after the long-standing president Rupiah Banda lost the elections, Zambia has been considered as a rising democracy in the continent. However, with it’s fragile economy that caused thousands of people their jobs and spiked the cost of living in recent years, the elections of August 11 will play a decisive role for the country’s fate. It is also possible to state that the outcome of the election is going to substantially affect the neighbouring countries as well.Ata Mert ALADAĞ