Zambian court says President Edgar Lungu can stand in presidential elections due in 2021 without breaching a constitutional two-term limit, Zambia’s top court ruled on Friday, rejecting an opposition challenge.
Lungu’s first period in office was for a period of one year and six months, when he took over after the death of the previous head of state who died whilst reigning – Michael Sata. He then won elections in a disputed vote to a second, full term in August 2016.
Those in favour of Lungu argued that the constitution says a president is only deemed to have served a term if he is in office for at least three years of the full five-year term. Constitutional Court President Hildah Chibomba said the ruling by the seven judges of the court had been unanimous.
“Our answer is that (Lungu’s first) presidential tenure of office…cannot be considered as a full term,” Chibomba said.
Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND), criticised the ruling as effectively opening the way to a third term for Lungu.
“For now, we would like to clearly state that no one is entitled to a third term of office as president of this country,” Hichilema said. “This is because when courts fail to protect citizens, (they) have the power to map their own destiny through people power.”
Elias Chipimo, head of the National Restoration Party said via Twitter: “The Constitutional Court may just have done more to undermine confidence in our judiciary than at any other time in our history.”
The ruling passed by the court cannot be appealed as the Constitutional Court is the highest tribunal in Zambia.