This IRIN article is doing the rounds among Zambian websites for its comment that the poor health of Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa is generating fears of political turmoil in his ruling party. Unfortunately the article seems to confuse things, especially this quote:
According to the Zambian constitution, which is being reviewed, should a serving president die in office or become incapacitated, the vice-president would immediately assume the presidency for the remainder of the five-year electoral term.
This statement is wrong. Article 38 of the Zambian Constitution clearly states :
Vacancy in Office of President
- If the office of the President becomes vacant by reason of his death or resignation or by reason of his ceasing to hold office by virtue of Article 36, 37, or 88, an election to the office of President shall be held in accordance with Article 34 within ninety days from the date of the office becoming vacant.
- Whenever the office of President becomes vacant, the Vice-President or, in the absence of the Vice-President or if the Vice-President is unable, by reason of physical or mental infirmity, to discharge the functions of his office, a member of the Cabinet elected by the Cabinet shall perform the functions of the office of President until a person elected as President in accordance with Article 34 assumes office.
- The Vice-President or, the member of the Cabinet as the case may be, performing the functions of the office of the President under clause (2) shall not dissolve the National Assembly nor, except on the advice of the Cabinet, revoke any appointment made by the President.
The Zambian constitution forbids a presidential running mate. So the current Vice President is not really a Vice President with any mandate. The current constitution (Article 38) would require the country to go to polls within 90 days of the President's resignation or death. To make it worse, the MMD has no party vice president. Mwanawasa abolished the position. So there's no automatic choice on who would take over from Mwanawasa as leader of the party. In the event of forced transition to elections, its questionable whether they would be able to hold party elections quickly enough to have a running candidate against the opposition. The other point of course is that political uncertainty is bad for FDI. Not to mention that any national election, if it came to that, would involve significant cost to the tax payer, especially coming so soon after later 2006.
Read this document on Scribd: Constitution of Zambia, 1991(Amended to 1996)