Sector group discussions on Draft Constitution heat up

A team of Experts discussing some clauses in the draft constitution in Lusaka have agreed to uphold the death sentence penalty which is in the constitution.

The experts said there is need to maintain the death sentence penalty to stop would be offenders. There have been calls to remove the death sentence from the constitution.

And Zambia News and Information Agency reports that the discussions at the constitution have heated up.

The clause that allows the next candidate with the highest number of votes cast in the initial ballot to replace the candidate who has either been disqualified or dies in a runoff due to the introduction of the 50+1 votes clause brought divisions among professionals and experts discussing and analyzing the Draft Constitution at the Sector Group Convention which opened today.

The debate rose after some delegates realized that the clause, if allowed to pass, will disadvantage the party that has duly qualified to participate in a runoff after a tie in a Presidential as a result of failing to gain 50+1 votes as required by the draft constitution.

According to Article 99 Clause 7 of the Draft Constitution, if the candidate who has qualified for second ballot dies or is disqualified for any reason under the constitution or any law from standing for election to the office of President before the taking of the second ballot, the next candidate with the highest number of valid votes cast in the initial ballot shall assume the place of that candidate.

This means that the third Presidential candidate will stand against one of the top two candidates if one of the top two who are required to go for a re-run dies or is disqualified which most delegates thought will be a source of anarchy in the country.

The article raised controversy with its supporters saying that the article has addressed the issue of presidential candidate wining with the minority while others disagreed that it will
disadvantage the party which sponsored the deceased or disqualified candidate and opted for the running mate to take over as presidential candidate instead of the third candidate.

The whole house, however, agreed that Article 75 which states that the elections to the office of the President shall be conducted directly on the basis of a majoritarian system where the winning candidate must receive not less than 50+1 votes of the valid votes cast but not in accordance with Article 99 which brought division in the convention.

Debating Article 99 Clause 7, United Party for National Development (UPND) Secretary General, Winston Chibwe, said the clause should be amended to allow the political party whose candidate dies to field a candidate of its choice and not a running mate as she/he could not be the preferred Presidential candidate of the party depending on the
principles of that party.

Mr Chibwe gave his party as an example of a party which lost its Presidential candidate but opted to field another candidate who was not a Vice President to takeover because of the party principles which he said should be critically be considered. He noted that not all vice presidents of the party could be floated as presidential candidates as there could be better candidates in the party who would qualify to take up the presidential vacancy.

And Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) Executive Director, McDonald Chipenzi, noted that the running mate deserves to contest in an event where the presidential candidate dies and not the second candidate with the highest votes cast in an initial election as
stated in the Draft Constitution.

His observations were supported by a political scientist, Jotham Momba and Patrick Mucheleka the latter who is Lubansenshi independent Member of Parliament.

Mr Mucheleka observed that the party should pick running mates whom they have confidence to take over the presidential slot in an event that their presidential candidate dies.

The article has since been subjected to amendments to allow the running mate to contest as a Presidential Candidate while some parts of the article have remained unresolved after 2 hours of debate as the chairperson of the sector group considering the representation of the
people sector, Francis Chigunta, switched to another topic after the house convened from the tea break.

The Sector Group on Representation of the people were tasked to, among other things, look at the electoral system , discuss the adequacy of the protection of the rights to vote in the first draft constitution and also to assess whether the Draft Constitution has sufficiently
provided for the independence of the Electoral Commission of Zambia.
ZANIS