Government Politics of Zambia

Last elections: September 2016 (presidential and legislative)

Next elections: 2021 (presidential and legislative)

Head of state: President Edgar Lungu

Head of government: The President

Ruling party: Patriotic Front

In May 2001 Vice-President Christon Tembo and more than 80 senior members of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) left the party to form the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD). Since, under the 1996 constitution, Frederick Chiluba could not stand for a third term of office and he was unable to muster enough support for constitutional change, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa was chosen in August as MMD’s candidate for the 2001 presidential election, the third since the restoration of multiparty politics in July 1990.

In a very close contest and with only 29% of the votes Mwanawasa won the December 2001 presidential election, Anderson Mazoka of the United Party for National Development (UPND) came second with 27%, Tembo (FDD) secured 13%, Tilyeni Kaunda (United National Independence Party – UNIP) 10% and Ben Mwila (Republican Party) 5%. In the simultaneous general election the MMD won 69 seats, the UPND 49, UNIP 13 and the FDD 12, but, even with its eight nominated members, the MMD was short of an absolute majority. The opposition was, however, fragmented and during 2003 Mwanawasa encouraged further fragmentation by bringing several individual opposition members into positions in his government.

In a fiercely contested presidential election in September 2006, Mwanawasa won a second term substantially increasing his share of the votes to 43%. Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front came second with 29% of the votes; Hakainde Hichilema of United Democratic Alliance came third with 25%. In the simultaneous parliamentary elections Mwanawasa’s MMD gained 72 seats and with the eight nominated members a narrow overall majority over the Patriotic Front (46 seats) and the United Democratic Alliance (27).

President Levy Mwanawasa suffered a stroke in June 2008 and died in August of that year. Vice-President Rupiah Banda became acting president in June 2008 and was sworn in as president in November, shortly after he won the October 2008 presidential by-election with 40.6% of votes. He defeated Sata of the Patriotic Front (38.6%) and Hichilema of the UPND (20%). Turnout was 45%.

Presidential, parliamentary and local elections were held on the same day in September 2011. Michael Sata (Patriotic Front) won the presidential election, securing about 43% of the votes cast; the incumbent Banda (MMD) took about 36% and Hichilema (UPND) about 18%. In the parliamentary elections the Patriotic Front won 60 seats, MMD 55 and UPND 28. A Commonwealth observer group led by former Nigerian president General Yakubu Gowon affirmed that the elections represented further progress for Zambia in strengthening its democratic processes and that voters were able to express their will freely.

President Sata died on 28 October 2014 and Vice-President Guy Scott took office as acting President. The consequent presidential election, held on 20 January 2015, was won by the Patriotic Front’s candidate, Edgar Lungu (with 48.8% of votes). His principal opponent was Hakainde Hichilema of UPND (47.2%). President Lungu was sworn in on 25 January 2015 to serve the rest of President Sata’s term until the next presidential, parliamentary and local elections in 2016. Turnout was 32%.

The 2016 general election was another close contest between Lungu and Hichilema and their parties. After winning 50.4% of votes to Hichilema’s 47.6%, Lungu remained in office. In the parliamentary elections the Patriotic Front won 80 seats, UPND 58, MMD 3, Independents 14 and FDD 1. There were 6 new parties on the ballot and voter turnout was 56%.