Zambians beat their own record on Thursday 11th August, 2016 when they turned up in large numbers and braved the scorching sun in long and winding queues as they waited for hours to cast their vote. The 2016 general elections came with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement given that the country was voting under new electoral regulations after amending the constitution earlier in the year. The polls also had the biggest number of voters in the country’s history with over 1.6 million new voters added mainly young people born in the 1990s.
After many hours of waiting beyond the expected 48 hours, Edgar Lungu was declared President-elect with Inonge Wina as Vice President with 50.4% of valid votes cast. Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) also clearly won six out of ten provinces, demonstrating what analysts have described as a very wide rural and urban reach.
Mrs Wina has become the first directly elected Vice President of Zambia. Mr Lungu has become the first candidate to secure above 50% of valid votes cast in nearly two decades. This has strengthened the legitimacy of the Presidency in statistical terms in line with the spirit of the amended constitution.
The PF got a total of 1,860,877 votes against their closest rival UPND who got 1,760,347 followed by FDD coming a distant third with 24,149. PAC got 15,791, RAINBOW got 9,504, UPP got 9,221, UNIP got 8,928, GREENS got 4,515 and lastly the DA which scored 2,378 votes.
Hakainde Hichilema and Geoffrey Mwamba of the UPND fought very hard in their relentless campaigns that started immediately after their defeat in the 2015 presidential by-election.
Whilst some analysts have said the re-election of Edgar Lungu is a much better outcome than the alternative in terms of stability because he will be able to govern effectively with over 50% MPs in parliament many have a different view. The UPND itself has refused to accept the outcome of the election with its, President Hakainde Hichilema announcing on live television that he does not consider Edgar Lungu a duly elected President, adding that his party would immediately launch a petition against the results in the Constitutional Court.
UPND claims that they have adequate evidence of vote tempering by the Electoral Commission (EC) in favour of the PF adding that the votes according to them have discrepancies and needed to be recounted, especially in Lusaka Province.
“We will now place our faith in the Constitutional Court, in the people of Zambia.” Said Mr Hichilema
He said the grounds on which the party will launch the petition are many, but they include the withholding of G12 forms from UPND’s polling agents in order to enable tampering with the results in favour of the PF.
“Without authenticated certificates for the stations there is no validity in the totalling process. The ECZ itself acknowledged this fact, agreeing to a verification and recount of votes in Lusaka district and the formation of a task team to oversee the process just yesterday afternoon, before the decision was later reversed under pressure from the President Lungu,” he said.
Mr Hichilema also cited the intimidation of party agents at polling stations during the counting process, whereby PF supporters physically kicked them out before having uncontrolled access to the ballot boxes.
“Discrepancies in the vote count and the result issued by the totalling centre, for example the case of the 14,039 missing UPND votes in Kanyama that were later found in the bin. Once these were input our vote went from 17,985 to 32,024. Even after this, however, the ECZ announced a figure of 30,892. We are compiling a list of other such instances to present to the courts.”
“Instances where a higher number of votes were cast than registered voters. For example, at Kamanga polling station in Munali constituency where there were 714 more votes cast than registered voters. The discovery of pre-marked ballot papers outside of ZAF HQ in Lusaka as late as Sunday morning,” he said.
Mr Hichilema said the UPND has specific evidence of gross irregularities in a number of constituencies, including all of the Lusaka urban constituencies, namely Kanyama, Munali, Chawama, Mandevu, Lusaka Central, Matero and Kabwata.
Had UPND succeeded to get the Presidency, it would have been quite challenging for Mr Hichilema to push forward the much needed structural reforms. The UPND government would have struggled to pass a UPND Budget. It is possible that with Hakainde as President there was a strong possibility of policy paralysis and a possible collapse of government.
On another positive note this election has proved that Zambians are now learning to distinguish between the President and MPs. It has been good to see many independent candidates elected to parliament whilst the presidential vote was going to a different candidate.
Should the opposition UPND succeed to petition the election results within the seven days provided in the Constitution the matter will have to be heard and determined within 14 days.
A major source of concern remains the tribal undertones that characterized the election with a clearly regional pattern of voting emerging even stronger than was seen in the 2015 elections. Former United States of America President, Jimmy Carter telephoned President Lungu at 23:00 hours on Monday night to wish him well and urged him to do his very best to unite the country.
Mr Carter urged President Lungu to ensure peace and stability to prevail and allow the due process of the law. He is among other international leaders who have encouraged President Lungu to work harder at keeping the peace and stability for which Zambia was well-renowned for.