Previously known as Northern Rhodesia, Zambia gained independence from the UK in October 1973. Kenneth Kaunda became the first president and remained in office until 1991.
In the 1964 and 1968 general elections Kenneth Kaunda’s party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP) won the elections with large majorities. In 1973 the government brought in a new constitution which created a ‘one party participatory democracy’ which allowed for one legal party, the UNIP and the leader of that party would be president.
The following four elections, in 1973, 1978, 1983 and 1988 were ‘rubber stamp’ affairs, but in 1990, following riots and an attempted coup the government agreed to introduce a multi-party democracy.
A new constitution in 1991 enshrined the multi-party approach and elections that year saw the UNIP heavily defeated by the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). The MMD did well again in 1996 and have won each election (2001 and 2006) since. However, their majority has been shrinking and they have faced new and more united opponents since, although the original UNIP has now been forced to join forces with stronger parties as it has faded off the scene since 1991.
In 1991 Frederick Chiluba defeated Kenneth Kaunda. In 1996 the constitution was amended to allow a president two terms in office. Chiluba served his two terms (1991 and 1996) and was replaced by Levy Mwanawasa in 2001. In 2008 Mwanawasa was involved in a car accident which subsequently led to his death. In the subsequent election in the October 2008 Mwanawasa was succeeded by his Vice-President Rupiah Banda.
In order to maintain the correct electoral cycle the next election was just three years later. Banda had not been a great success as President despite a strong economy and feelings were running high about the way in which foreign firms, especially those run by the Chinese were taking Zambia’s mineral resources and giving little back whilst having “slave-labour type conditions”.
This was a theme that the fiery rhetoric of opposition candidate Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front (PF) used in his campaign. Rupiah Banda’s campaign was not able to compete with the onslaught from Sata and the result was a close but clear win for Sata who took 41.98% of the vote to Banda’s 35.42%.
Sata proved to be a controversial and outspoken President, but illness overtook him and on 28th October 2014 he passed away from an undisclosed illness. His Vice-President Guy Scott took over, the first white President in Africa, but constitutionally he was not permitted to stand as President in the ensuing by-election. The Patriotic Front looked as though it would tear itself apart as the strong men competed for the PF nomination. Eventually former Justice and Defence Minister Edgar Lungu won the nomination and won the 2015 Presidential election with 48.33% of the vote.
Lungu will have to go through the whole process again sometime in 2016. Meanwhile his Presidency has had a shaky start as he has battled to fulfil his manifesto promises and to tackle poverty which remains high in the country.
The President is elected for a five year term and is eligible for a second term.
Zambia has a unicameral National Assembly consisting of 158 seats. 150 members are elected and 8 members appointed by the President to serve five year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Zambia at joint 87th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 38 (where 100 is least corrupt).