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Zambia turns to a new page: Lungu assents to constitution bills

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Lungu assentingPresident Edgar Lungu has assented to the constitution bills amendments passed by Parliament at a historical event held at Heroes stadium bringing to end the debate on the constitution that has been going on for the last 24 years.

President Lungu lifts the new constitution after assenting the bills

President Lungu lifts the new constitution after assenting the bills

Speaking before thousands of people from all provinces invited to witness the ceremony Tuesday, January 5, 2016, President Lungu said the country had wasted alot of money in the exercise.

This constitution has costed us a lot of money, we must close this chapter, President Lungu told the cheering crowd.

He said 11 months in office he had managed to deliver a constitution as promised during his inauguration in January 2015. He said the only clause that was missing from the draft was the bill of rights that requires a referendum.

With the signing of the bills today, Zambia’s political landscape has changed.

President Edgar Lungu greets MMD president Nevers Mumba who was accompanied by his wife during the assenting of the constitution bills which have since become law at Heroes stadium.

President Edgar Lungu greets MMD president Nevers Mumba who was accompanied by his wife during the assenting of the constitution bills which have since become law at Heroes stadium.

The major change, of course, is the much-talked-about 50 percent plus one, which will call for mergers, re-runs and coalitions if there is no clear majority winner.

And then there is the running mate clause, where the President will now have a vice-president voted by the electorate, as the case is in the US.

In Africa, the Kenyan and Malawian constitutions do provide for a running mate. It has so far worked well in the former, but caused a hitch in the later.
This clause will immediately affect parties that have two positions for vice-presidents like the United Party for National Development. The clause is also expected to add a new dimension to politics as candidates will now have to rely not only their strengths but also on the strengths of their running mates.

In the case of the US presidential election which saw the election of Barack Obama, some critics blame Republican candidate John McCain’s loss on his choice of a running mate – Sarah Palin.

Candidates can no longer choose liabilities as vice-presidents, and future presidents will not fire their vice-president at their whim or arbitrarily.
Under the new constitution, the election date will be fixed – the second Thursday of August.

This, of course, levels the playing field somewhat, as previously, opposition parties had to a large extent been caught unawares; and they have cried foul.

The new Constitution also sets a new bar for elective positions of councillor and member of Parliament, with Grade 12 academic qualification set as the entry level.
Some may already have started packing on account of this clause.

Zambians living abroad may be some of the happiest when the new Constitution is signed as they stand to benefit from the dual citizenship clause.

And, of course, the new Constitution still acknowledges the supremacy of God Almighty and its identity as a Christian Nation.

This clause has, however, been amended to respect the right to freedom of worship of every citizen.

Dr. Kaunda (l)

Dr. Kaunda (l)

The event was also attended by two surviving former presidents – Kenneth Kaunda and Rupiah Banda.

 

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