By Anthony Mukwita
Many scholars and even none scholars of democracy still recall vividly, the deeply divisive quadrennial election in the United States of the year 2000.
It has been an inspiration for many a scholarly and even artistic works in terms of books, academic papers and movies.
This is the poll that was held on Tuesday, 7th November 2000, a tight contest between Republican candidate George W. Bush, who was facing it off with an equally formidable Democratic candidate Al Gore, the incumbent vice president then.
The short and tall of it is that at the end of the deeply divisive poll, Bush was declared the disputed winner and Al Gore bowed out after an acrimonious bitter court battle that took a month and ended in the Supreme Court of the so-called last bastion of democracy on earth.
The devil as they say is in the detail, but what can be safely deduced from scholarly works that have followed thereafter is that after cutting through mountains and piles of legal and political noise, the American justice system saw it fit to end the impasse and let democracy prevail, or did it?
That though, was in the United States and this article is not discussing the United States; it is a sneak peak into the election that has left scholars in Africa and beyond on a cliff-hanger, gasping for breath and wondering what move in the political chess game will be next.
In the green corner is Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the President elect of Africa’s second largest copper producer (Zambia), an immensely popular grass-roots leader, a devout Christian, family man, and the man widely believed to have won the elections of 11th August 2016.
In the red corner is Hakainde Hichilema, a self-styled businessman with a brash attitude and known among his followers as “Mr Fix it” despite having failed to win five recorded elections to his colourful political history.
On the centre left, the newly formed Constitutional Court of Zambia comprising five learned gentlemen and lady in flowing robes and wigs that must decide who the ‘winner’ in a shaky Game of Thrones is.
On the centre right, 1. 8 million zealous and impatient Zambian voters that turned up in large numbers on 11th August to cast their vote for Edgar Lungu compared to the dismally disputed 1.7 million that voted for Hichilema. Up to 1.7 million votes in only 3 provinces?
So who then will the Judges side with or indeed who will judge the judges in this deeply divisive, fractious and acrimonious political debacle that has left scholars gasping for breath as President Lungu, the elected Commander in Chief continues to call for calm?
As Great Britain First Lord Protector Sir Oliver Cromwell once said: “when two sides are at war, they both pray to God that ‘they only’ must win the battle, you wonder at some point whom God is going to listen to.”
But the case in Zambia is simple according to the many analysts and pundits that have emerged in the wake of the Edgar Lungu vs Hakainde Hichilema election and they point out the following.
In favour of Edgar Lungu is:
• Out of the ten provinces of Zambia, Edgar Lungu bagged seven provinces with a consolidated vote count of 1.8 million (plus) to seal the much needed 50 percent and one vote needed in the new constitution for one to be declared President. Hichilema did not.
• On the tally of election observer missions that flooded Zambia before and during the 11th August poll, 90 percent of them have already declared, the Edgar Lungu victory a ‘sure fire win.’ A slam dunk, a done deal! They include:
• the more than 50 state member African Union or AU
• the 27 member European Union (EU) observer mission
• the more than 14 state member Southern African Development Corporation (SADC)
• The influential Christian churches monitoring group or CCMG comprising the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ); Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR); and Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), formerly the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC), through Caritas Zambia.
• and the Commonwealth group that comprises countries that once fell under British rule but now work together to enhance democracy
The above have all categorically and unequivocally stated that Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s election was free and fair, including the period before and during the poll, serve for a few sporadic incidents of violence that do not drastically tilt the internationally accepted barometer of a good election.
In addition, President Lungu has received resounding salutations and pledges of continued support from his colleagues from the proverbial Cape to Cairo starting from:
• South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma
• Namibia’s President Hage Geingob
• Ethiopia’s President Mulatu Teshome
• Nigeria’s President Muhamad Buhari
• Swaziland’s King Mswati III
• United States President Barak Obama
• separately the United States, influential Department of State
• The Carter Centre
• Ghana’s President Dr Dramani Mahama
• Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and basically every other African President and beyond are sending in their recognitions and salutations to President Lungu, including the United Nations to mention but a few, as the list goes on.
Never before according to pundits has an election, so overwhelmingly been endorsed as free and fair, and meeting internationally accepted standards.
But nevertheless about it, a legal provision allows a contest from the opposition and in this case the main opposition is Hichilema’s UPND. Hichilema has a spectacular history of losing elections. It is jokes amongst his colleagues that he could lose a poll in his own house.
Because of Hichilema’s court order, the 1.8 million Zambians that voted for Edgar Lungu have not seen their choice candidate get sworn in as President after he was duly declared winner on 15th August by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) when he became the first Zambian politician to bite the bullet and bag 50 percent plus one votes dreaded by many before him.
From the day Lungu was declared winner, a court proceeding has continued to ‘deny’ Zambians of their ‘choice’ leader and cause immense anxieties, not only among peace loving Zambians but among the international political and business community. A situation bound to inevitably affect the economy says analysts.
This is because Zambia remains the Shangri-La of peace on the continent, and a model of a budding democracy. This is a fact.
President Edgar Lungu on the other hand has been known to be, not only a law abiding politician but a leader of great Christian devotion who has once given up the instruments of power in order to foster harmony.
President Lungu has been known to have gone to an ‘intra-party’ election in December 2014 even when the Supreme body of the ruling Patriotic Front, the majority of the members, had already endorsed him as a choice candidate.
This time around, however, questions abound on how far, not just him, but his supporters will go to allow him to continue being magnanimous after an evident legally declared ECZ victory. This is because:
• up to 1.8million Zambians voted Edgar Chagwa Lungu on 11th August says official records
• seven out of 10 provinces voted Edgar Chagwa Lungu
• The Electoral Commission of Zambia declared Edgar Chagwa Lungu President of Zambia
• all influential local and international monitors said Edgar Chagwa Lungu won the 11th August poll
How will they react therefore if an institution along the way continued to delay their will from being done? The will of the people.
How long will the patience of Zambians continue being tested, as it jealously guards peace and stability? Is peace being threatened?
This election unlike the US poll of Gore vs Bush, referenced in the introduction is not ‘too close to call’; the winner was picked and declared. It was Edgar Chagwa Lungu.
Will the will of Zambians be heard? Will Edgar Chagwa Lungu turn the other cheek again?
Who will Judge the Judges?