GABORONE – The Speaker of the Zambian National Assembly, Patrick Matibini, is likely to become interim president if the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) party files a Constitutional Court challenge against the re-election of President Edgar Lungu.
Lungu was declared the winner on Monday of the closely contested 11 August elections after beating main challenger Hakainde Hichilema by more than 100,000 votes.
Hichilema has dismissed the outcome as fraudulent and announced plans to file a petition in the Constitutional Court as early as Tuesday, citing gross irregularities and electoral malpractices on the part of Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) staff and Patriotic Front (PF) party officials.
According to Article 104 (Clause 3) of the (Amended) Zambian constitution, “the Speaker of the National Assembly shall perform all executive functions, except the power to make appointments or dissolve the National Assembly, in the event that an election petition is filed against the incumbent (President), or an election is nullified”.
The constitution also stipulates that once petitioned, the Constitutional Court should convene a hearing for the matter within 14 days. The court has powers to nullify or re-affirm the election of the incumbent, based on its assessment of the legal arguments presented.
Until the court settles the matter of the petition, the president-elect cannot be sworn in as head of state.
In a statement sent out to his supporters on Monday night, losing candidate Hichilema said the UPND would go to court because the PF had “effected a coup d’état on Zambia’s democratic processes”.
“The grounds on which we will launch our petition include the following: The withholding of G-12 forms from our polling agents, in order to enable tampering with the results in favour of the PF,” said Hichilema.
“Without authenticated certificates for the stations, there is no validity in the totalling process. The ECZ acknowledged this, agreeing to a recount of votes in Lusaka and the formation of a task team to oversee the process just on Sunday afternoon, before the decision was reversed under pressure from President Lungu.
“The intimidation of our 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 results issued by the totalling centre, for example the case of the 14,039 missing UPND votes in Kanyama, that were later found in a bin. We are compiling a list of such instances to present to the courts,” Hichilema said.
Further, he said there were instances where the number of votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters, while some pre-marked ballot papers which were allegedly found outside the Zambian Air Force (ZAF) Headquarters in Lusaka on Sunday morning could be proof of widespread election rigging.
Hichilema also claimed he had specific evidence of other gross vote-tallying irregularities in all seven urban constituencies in Lusaka.
Meanwhile, protests and riots broke out on Monday across the Southern Province of Zambia as UPND supporters took to the streets to protest against alleged rigging of the election.
The riots affected the towns of Choma, Magoye, Monze and Livingstone, where youths blocked roads with burning tyres. Southern Province police commissioner Godwin Phiri told local media that the protesters also burnt market stalls in some municipalities.
He said riot police had fired teargas to disperse the protesters and they would remain on the ground to control the situation.