Monday, 23 April 2012

Why We Need 50+1 for Presidential Elections

By Paul Shalala
A voter being helped to walk

For a long time now, a minority president has presided over millions of Zambians most of whom may not even have voted for him. Presidents such as the late Frederick Chiluba, the late Levy Mwanawasa, Rupiah Banda and the incumbent Michael Sata have all led this country on minority votes owing to the current First-Past-The-Post electoral system. This system allows whoever gets votes more votes than other candidates to be crowned President of the Republic of Zambia irrespective of whether the margin was minimal or large and irrespective of the percentage of the winning candidate.

For example, in 2001, Mwanawasa got less than 30% of the votes, in practical terms it means that the majority of Zambian voters (70%) did not want Mwanawasa to be president as they voted for other candidates, but because of our electoral regime, Mwanawasa presided over this nation as a minority head of state. As the constitution making process progresses, my hope is that the Sata-appointed Technical Committee on the constitution will ensure that the 50 plus one presidential winning threshold is enshrined in the new constitution so that in future, Zambian presidents should be elected by the majority of the voters!

The 50 plus one system is also called the Majoritarian electoral system in Political Science. This system allows a winning candidate to have more than 50% of the votes, hence having the majority votes in an election. 50 plus one also helps the incumbent president to have legitimacy from the voters as most people will see the power of their votes being manifested in the man or woman they eventually send to State House. Further, the majoritarian system will also reduces cases of electoral disputes as the person who becomes president wins outright unlike the current situation were a president can win with a meagre 35,000 votes and the losers live with suspicions of fraud and the stealing of votes. This system ensures that if no candidate wins more than 50% in the first round, the first two candidates head for a run off election in which the voters choose a candidate who evntually presides over their nation for a prescribed number of years!

Over the years, Zambians have submitted through various Constitution Review Commissions (CRCs)for the inclusion of the 50 plus one presidential voting threshold into the Republican Constitution. Many of these recommendations have been thrown out by the successive governments but we are hopeful that the Patriotic Front government will not fall in the same trap and throw out this recommendation which is at the heart of many Zambians' aspirations.


  1. Good analysis Paul. Write about the running mate too.

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  3. But it may unstablise the country when contestants for see the results in the first round