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Friday, 22 January 2010

NCC Updates (50% + 1, Presidential Degrees)

The NCC process reached a crescendo this week. It all begun on Tuesday. The "government led punters" managed to pull off the victory  with 266 delegates voting against the 50% + 1 clause, but clearly not enough to reach the 297 threshold that would have killed the clause completely. This result has now forced a referendum.

The government was quick to remind us that such an exercise would be extremely costly.  Part of the problem is that any referendum must be preceded by a national census to ensure that we have accurate number of the eligible population. When that happens we can then check whether the turn out is genuinely more than 50% for the outcome to be valid. But even here confusion reigns.

A possible compromise would be to hold the referendum at the same time as the general elections - but that would be complicated for many people.

As if that was not bad enough. We had the misguided proposal of requiring a presidential candidate to have at least a degree from a reputable university (don't laugh!).  We have previously discussed why this degree proposal misses the mark on When mulongotism met sakism and Defending Mulongotism?  Politically, the controversial nature of this proposal puts another nail in the constitutional coffin.

So we have confirmed what everyone knew : the whole NCC process has been an exercise in futility. The delegates are laughing all the way to the bank - those who boycotted have been vindicated. It can only be hoped that lessons have been learnt from this expensive farce so that post 2011, a better and more efficient process will emerge.  I remain convinced that we can achieve some of the institutional objectives through piecemeal parliamentary reform, effective funding of watchdog institutions and new transparent policies.

Do we really need a constitutional change to make the Electoral Council of Zambia or Bank of Zambia Independent? Yet these are issues which have taken up valuable time.  Post 2011, we much focus on limited questions and allow other reforms to emerge through parliamentary reform.

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