GOVERNANCE, Elections, Advocacy and Research Services (GEARS) Initiative executive director Macdonald Chipenzi says electoral experiments are good but must take care of the insensitivities and instability of the country’s existing electoral landscape.
Chipenzi said it was the reason the inventors of the 50 per cent + 1 opted for a runoff between the two frontrunners to ensure 50 per cent +1 was attained through an elective process to complete a competitive electoral process and ensure a popularly elected candidate.
He said according to the NDF draft Constitution, in Article 101 (1), “a President shall be elected by registered voters…” and not by losing candidates in an election.
Chipenzi said Article 101(2) of the NDF Draft Constitution states that “the Returning Officer shall declare the presidential candidate who receives more than fifty per cent of the valid votes cast during the election as President-elect” and not one who negotiates the correct votes from losing candidates to meet the 50 per cent +1 winning threshold.
He said according to proponents of the NDF draft Constitution, the above provision has not been deleted and argue that the 50 per cent +1 provision was intact, which lay electoral reasoning and vulnerable minds, were persuaded to believe.
Chipenzi, however, said the provision only gives a threshold to determine a winner and if no one meets the target, which could be the case in the Zambian scenario, sub-article 3 of 101 of the NDF draft Constitution obliterates the 50 per cent +1 threshold.
“This is what it stresses: ‘If at the initial ballot a presidential candidate does not receive more than fifty per cent of the valid votes cast, the candidate with the highest number of votes cast shall within fourteen days of the declaration by the Returning Officer of the presidential election results negotiate and form a coalition government with a presidential candidate that participated in the initial ballot’, except that the combined votes of that presidential candidate and the preferred presidential candidates forming the coalition government meet the threshold of more than 50 per cent of the valid votes cast.”
“Sub-article (5) wraps it all by stating that the Returning Officer shall declare as President elect, ‘in the event of the formation of a coalition, the presidential candidate who obtains the highest number of valid votes’ and not one who obtains 50 per cent + 1 and who scavenges votes from losing and rejected candidates,” he said.
He said the NDF draft has claw back provisions aimed at actualising a coalition as a bypass to the 50 per cent +1 threshold for a winning candidate.
Chipenzi said as it were, the idea of a coalition government was birthed when there was eminent fear of failure to meet the winning threshold of 50 per cent +1 by the sponsors of the Bill and had nothing to do with the cost of a runoff, especially in the format the NDF draft had been drafted and packaged.
He said it was also common wisdom that coalitions were formed out of failure by contestants to meet a winning threshold, in this case the 50 per cent +1.
“Like sub-article 3 has guided in the NDF draft, at the point of negotiating for the formation of a coalition government, none of the candidates would have garnered 50 per cent +1 but are technically declared winners and allowed to form a negotiated government within 14 days to avoid a presidential runoff,” he said.
“The likely scenario in 2021, if this provision passes, is that the country will see many paper-based political parties and candidates contesting 2021 general elections on a sponsored arrangement in readiness for negotiations to help the highest candidate after the elections form a coalition government,” he said.
He said to this end, the government born out of this combination of votes would be led by a minority candidate who could have failed to meet the winning threshold of 50 per cent +1 but scavenges for political survival through negotiating with rejected candidates’ votes but sponsored by that candidate and his party initiating negotiations.
“The others who are rejected by the electorate are used to make a minority candidate a majority through a none elective process. This is not majoritarian electoral system. Electoral experiments are good but must take care of the insensitivities and instability of the country’s existing electoral landscape,” he said.
“It is the reason the inventors of the 50 per cent +1 opted for a runoff between the two front runners to ensure 50 per cent +1 is attained through an elective process to complete a competitive electoral process and a popularly elected candidate emerges. Forming a coalition is based on first past the post system and can and will never be 50 per cent +1.”