50+1 taken to referendum

Zambia will next year go to a constitutional making referendum following the failure by the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) delegates to attain two thirds of the vote required to meets make the 50 percent plus one vote threshold be enshrined in the new constitution.

The NCC delegates yesterday voted to determine a final position on the proposed 50 per cent plus one vote threshold clause in the next constitution for a presidential candidate to win an election.

A total of 260 NCC delegates voted in favour of the 50 per cent plus one vote threshold while 184 delegates voted against. This was out of the total 446 voted cast. Four votes were rejected.

For the 50 percent plus one vote threshold to go through and be adopted for enshrining in the constitution, the NCC should have attained at least 297 votes out of the 446, which would have translated into a two third majority.

“The two thirds threshold has not been attained. Therefore Zambia goes to a referendum next year,” he said. Mr. Banda thanked the delegates for voting.

Electoral Commission of Zambia Commissioner, Joceline Mubita, who was the Returning Officer in the voting process, announced the results this evening at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre (MICC).

And NCC Chairperson, Chifumu Banda, said the outcome of the vote means that Zambia would go for a referendum to determine what would put in the next constitution in relation to what type of presidential election system.

“The two thirds threshold has not been attained. Therefore Zambia goes to a referendum next year,” he said. Mr. Banda thanked the delegates for voting.

Meanwhile, Chief Government spokesperson, Ronnie Shikapwasha said in an interview that it would be ideal for Zambia to maintain the current voting pattern of the simple majority rule.

Lieutenant General Shikapwasha, who is also Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, said the 50 per cent plus one vote was not progressive for Zambia. He said this was instead a recipe for anarchy in Zambia, adding that this was the reason why Zimbabwe and Kenya rejected it.

He noted that the referendum was a costly process for Zambia and wondered where the government would source the funds from to conduct this exercise. However, the Patriotic Front (PF)-United Party for National Development (UPND) pact co-leader, Hakainde Hichilema said that the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) should not use lack of money as an excuse.

Mr. Hichilema said Zambians had been advocating for the 50 percent plus one vote threshold for the past 20 years. He has since accused the MMD of blocking the efforts to have the 50 percent plus one vote threshold in the constitution to their advantage.

After the vote, NCC delegates and none delegates mainly from the opposition political parties went into jubilation saying the way of the referendum would be the best for Zambian to have the 50 percentplus one vote threshold in the new constitution. They said the next constitution will stand the test of time if the 50 percent plus one vote threshold is enshrined in it.

Prior to voting, Sinazongwe UPND MP and NCC commissioner, Raphael Muyanda, raised a point of order on General Shikapwasha for allegedly influenced the direction of voting by distributing a document that contained messages concerning the 50 percent plus one vote threshold issue.

Mr. Muyanda laid the said document on the table in order for NCC Chairperson, Chifumu Banda to rule over and provide guidance to the august house. But dismissed Mr. Banda dismissed the point of order and ruled that all NCC delegate were accorded ample time to campaign.

He further advised that the document would not necessarily influence the vote because it was done under secret ballot. The MICC, where the NCC conducts its business from, was today heavily guarded by armed police.

Currently, Zambia is undergoing a fourth constitutional making process which is discussing for possible adoption the recommendations from the Willa Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) which was constituted about six year ago.

Other constitutional making processes were the Chona Commission in 1973, the Mwanakatwe Commission in 1991 and the Mvunga Commission of 1996. From independence in 1964 to 1991, Zambia had been using a First Past the Post system of electing a president. In 1991, the system was changed to 50 percent plus one vote threshold, which was however changed again in 1996 to revert to old system.

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