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Zambia’s Losing Candidate Wants Electoral Reform

FILE - Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia.
FILE - Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia.

The man who came second in last week’s Zambian special presidential election has called for a new constitution that will ensure a truly independent electoral commission.

Hakainde Hichilema of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) said the current commission serves the interest of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party because its members are appointed by the president.

The election commission said PF candidate Edgar Lungu won 48.3 percent of the vote, while Hichilema finished second with 46.7 percent.

Hichilema said the election was stolen from him and rejected criticism that he lost because he was too tribalistic.

”What happened is that we won the election, but it was stolen from us. It’s very clear that the manipulation of election results was not just in the polling stations, it was also in in the constituents totaling centers. Worst still, it was in the national tallying center under the nose of the electoral commission,” he said.

Hichilema thanked Zambian voters for responding well to his campaign message.

“We had the clearest message. We reached out to the people more than any other candidate. Our campaign was well-organized. You can see from the results we got, even when they were stealing our results. They allocated my results, which were higher, to Lungu, my competitor,” Hichilema said.

He rejected allegations attributed to another presidential candidate, Ruth Nawkwi, that Hichilema lost the election because he was too tribal in focus.

“The country is not about tribe; it’s not about ethnicity. The country is about economic turnaround, supporting businesses not just to survive, but to grow, and when they grow, we create jobs. That’s our message, that’s why we won the election,” he said.

He said his campaign won in most provinces of Zambia and was competitive in the north. Hichilema said Zambia does not need ethnicity, but a competent team to turn the country’s sluggish economy around.

Asked if he will run again in the next presidential election, Hichilema said he would leave that decision up to his party’s central committee to decide. He said Zambia needs electoral reform.

“The issue is we need an electoral reform that will not allow the electoral commission who [acts as] a referee, but acts as a scorer when there’s no goalkeeper in the goal. That’s what the electoral commission of Zambia staff was doing, nonstop,” he said.

Hichilema also said future election results should be transmitted to the constituent tally centers with full stakeholder representation before results can be declared.

“We need to have a truly independent electoral commission, which is not what we have now because what we have now, the retaining officer for presidential election results is the Chief Justice, who is appointed by the ruling party, and the ruling party is a competitor in the election. You cannot have the referee as well as being a scorer in the game of soccer,” Hichilema said.

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