Court says Lungu can run for pres­i­dent in 2021, op­po­si­tion cries foul

Sunday Observer - - NEWS -

LUSAKA

- Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu can stand in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions due in 2021 with­out breach­ing a con­sti­tu­tional two-term limit, Zam­bia’s top court ruled on Fri­day, re­ject­ing an op­po­si­tion chal­lenge.

The rul­ing will strengthen Lungu’s hand at a time when Zam­bia, Africa’s sec­ond largest cop­per pro­ducer, is grap­pling with mount­ing debt and an eco­nomic slump caused by de­pressed com­mod­ity prices.

Lungu’s first pe­riod in of­fice lasted only one year and six months, when he took over af­ter the death of the pre­vi­ous elected pres­i­dent, Michael Sata. He then won elec­tion in a dis­puted vote to a sec­ond, full term in Au­gust 2016.

Lungu’s sup­port­ers ar­gued that the con­sti­tu­tion says a pres­i­dent is only deemed to have served a term if he is in of­fice for at least three years of the full five-year term.

Con­sti­tu­tional Court Pres­i­dent Hil­dah Chi­bomba said the rul­ing by the seven judges of the court had been unan­i­mous.

“Our an­swer is that (Lungu’s first) pres­i­den­tial ten­ure of of­fice...can­not be con­sid­ered as a full term,” Chi­bomba said. Op­po­si­tion leader Hakainde Hichelema, who heads the United Party for Na­tional Devel­op­ment (UPND), crit­i­cised the rul­ing as ef­fec­tively open­ing the way to a third term for Lungu.

“For now, we would like to clearly state that no one is en­ti­tled to a third term of of­fice as pres­i­dent of this coun­try,” Hichelema said. “This is be­cause when courts fail to pro­tect cit­i­zens, (they) have the power to map their own des­tiny through peo­ple power.”

Elias Chip­imo, who heads the smaller Na­tional Restora­tion Party, said on Twit­ter: “The Con­sti­tu­tional Court may just have done more to un­der­mine con­fi­dence in our Ju­di­ciary than at any other time in our his­tory.”

Reuters

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