By GEORGE CHOMBA
WHEN President Edgar Lungu at a Chongwe rally advised Zambians to scrutinise leaders vying for the State House job and their running mates, my thoughts rushed to June 3 at Lusaka’s Mulungushi International Conference Centre.
This is the day the returning officer in the presidential election Esau Chulu announced the validly nominated candidates in the August 11 general elections.
When Justice Chulu, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) chairperson, announced the successful filing in of nomination papers by nine political party presidential candidates and their running mates, he set in motion the huge task of Zambians electing a Head of State.
Will President Lungu who is sixth Head of State retain his seat or there will be a seventh person after August 11, 2016?
Simple arithmetic entails that the Zambian electorate has 18 presidential candidates to pick from in the quest to employ one in the State House job and the other as vice president.
The choice from which Zambians will be picking on the ballot are UNIP’s Tilyenji Chanda Kaunda with running mate Njekwa Ement Anamela, FDD’s Edith Zewelani Nawakwi with Clement Mwanza as running mate, PF’s Edgar Chagwa Lungu with Inonge Mutukwa Wina as running mate, UPP’s Saviour Chishimba and Sinanzeni Chuma as presidential and running mate respectively.
Also on the list of successful presidential candidate are Rainbow Party’s Wynter Kabimba and his running mate Cosmas Musheke Musumali, Peter Chazya Sinkamba of the Green Party and his running mate Clement Francis Tafni, UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema and Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba as running mate.
Zambians also have the choice of Andyford Mayele Banda of the PAC and his running mate in Enoch Roosevelt Tonga, DA’s Maxwell Mwamba and Rosemary Kabungo as running mate.
Eighteen presidential candidates? Some may wonder! According to Article 106 (5) in the new Constitution of Zambia, it provides for a running mate who becomes vice president and can automatically take over the presidency in case the incumbent is unable to perform his duties.
This inability to perform presidential functions could be as a result of resignation, death, impeachment or poor health.
In coming up with the running mate provision, Zambians were alive to their experiences – the death of Levy Mwanawasa and Michael Sata -while the two leaders served as Heads of State.
The current legal arrangement is unlike before when the ballot paper only had presidential candidates who participated in the first-past-the post electoral system, commonly known as simple majority.
In the old electoral system, the President appointed the vice president among members of Parliament, either elected or nominated among the eight.
Many remember how Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda became Vice President of Zambia in the Frederick Chiluba administration. Zambians also remember how Dr Nevers Mumba under President Levy Mwanawasa and Mr Rupiah Banda were nominated Members of Parliament who became republican vice presidents.
In the old order, the President had powers to hire or fire a vice president, who was leader of Government business in Parliament.
The President also chose whether the vice president acted in his position or not when travelling outside the country.
Zambians are also alive to how President Michael Sata treated Dr Guy Scott, who was an elected Lusaka Central Member of Parliament, as republican vice president.
Dr Scott was not allowed to act as Head of State in the three years of Mr Sata’s presidency.
In the current scheme of things, with the enactment of a new Constitution, the electoral rules have changed and Zambians will test the changed legal regime after the August 11 when the winners of the polls will start exercising their power in the amended Constitution.
Zambians will now have to grapple with the majoritarian system of coming up with a President and his Vice President.
No winning presidential candidate will take the State House job without amassing more than 50 percent of the validly cast votes in the first ballot.
If there is no clear winner in the first ballot, then the presidential candidate who came first in the first ballot and the one, who followed, then go for the second ballot within 37 days.
For the uninitiated, the second presidential ballot only attracts a first-past –the post winner.
The attention, however, will be on the Vice President who gets the position after being a running mate.
The President cannot bypass the number two when matters of acting arise or unable to perform his duties on account of poor health.
The Vice President is the defacto President in waiting who automatically takes over without going for an election in case of a vacancy in State House.
Therefore, the question that the Zambian electorate will be answering on August 11 is: Which pair deserves the State House job and the Vice Presidency?
Since the vote is secret, the power, therefore, of the 3,375,009 women and 3,335,446 men registered voters is in casting the ballot.