January 18, 2006

Mwanawasa agrees to new constitution

In a surprise move, President Levy Mwanawasa has bowed to pressure and agreed that a constituent assembly would adopt the new constitution, as demanded by civil society and the opposition. Mwanawasa had maintained before that it a new constitution was not possible before the elections, citing time and money as the main stumbling blocks. This compelled the Oasis Forum, a civil society body comprising the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) and the three main church bodies in the country, to mount countrywide demonstrations, which were attended by more than 10.000 people in Lusaka alone.

The Constitution Review Commission (CRC), appointed to collect submissions and draft a new constitution in 2003, has already handed a draft constitution to Mwanawasa, which included the demand that future presidents of Zambia should only be sworn in after being elected by more than 50 percent of the registered voters. Mwanawasa was sworn in as president after winning just 28 percent of the votes in a 2002 election, widely rejected as fraudulent by the Atlanta-based Carter Centre, European Union (EU) monitors and two domestic election monitors. Zambia is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in the next six months. (The Times of Zambia, Ndola)

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