Constitution of Zambia

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Zambian Parliament

Independence: 24 October 1964

The 1996 constitution provides for an executive president, who is head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is limited to a maximum of two five-year terms. The vice-president and the cabinet are appointed by the president from the National Assembly. The cabinet is responsible for formulating policy and for advising the president on policy. It is accountable to the National Assembly.

The legislative powers of the republic are vested in parliament, which consists of the president and the National Assembly, whose 150 members are elected every five years from single-member constituencies. The president has the power to nominate eight special members of the National Assembly, five of whom can serve in the cabinet.

Both the president and the National Assembly are elected by universal adult suffrage. The election regulations are drawn up by an Electoral Commission, which may also prescribe and review the limits of constituency boundaries. The constitution contains a bill of rights, setting out the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, and providing protection from discrimination on the grounds of race, tribe, gender, place of origin, marital status, political opinions, colour or creed.

The most controversial of the recommendations of the draft report of the National Constitutional Conference, published in July 2009, concerned limiting the powers of the president and changing the basis of presidential elections so that presidents are elected by at least 50% of the electorate, rather than the simple majority required by the 1996 constitution, thus introducing the potential for multiple rounds of voting. Supporters of this change believed that this would strengthen the prospects of a fragmented opposition, while detractors argued it would increase the cost of elections.