Zambia is a multiparty representative democracy whose head of state is the president. The constitution established in 1991 serves as the framework for the Zambian political system. Zambia gained independence in 1964 after which it became a republic under the 1964 constitution. Under the leadership of Kenneth Kaunda (1964-1991), Zambia became a one-party state after the introduction of the 1973 constitution. However, tensions and opposition to party monopoly of the United National Independence Party led to the reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1991 and marked the end of Kaunda’s rule.
Under the multiparty system, the first elections were held on October 31, 1991. All adults above the age of 18 are eligible to vote. Positions for which the public vote include the president and 150 members of the national assembly, each elected for five-year terms. General elections take place every five years with by-elections within 90 days should a president die in office. Elected officials serve for a maximum of two five-year terms. The first-past-the-post system determines winners of an election. Constitutional amendments in 2015 may introduce a two-round voting system for the presidential elections. The Electoral Commission of Zambia oversees and manages Zambian elections. The president may dissolve the national assembly and call for elections.
The president is the head of state, the commander in chief of the armed forces and the head of the executive. The constitution gives the president direct authority to execute his power through the offices under him. The president, the vice president, and the cabinet make up the executive. The president elects the vice president and cabinet members from elected officials. The role of the cabinet and the vice president is to advise the president on policies. Cabinet members (ministers and their deputies) are answerable to the national assembly. With advice from the Judicial Service Commission, the president appoints the chief justice and high court judges. President Edgar Chagwa Lungu is the current head of state in Zambia.
The Zambian judiciary exists independently from the executive and legislative branches. The chief justice, appointed by the president, is the head of the judiciary. The judicial system in Zambia is divided into several courts with the highest being the Supreme Court, then the high court, magistrate courts, local courts, and the industrial relations court. Through the courts and commissions within the judicial system, the judiciary interprets the law and settles legal disputes. The judiciary primarily uses the English common law system and incorporates some Zambian acts. Compatible customary laws are also included in the legal system in the country.
The legislature is comprised of the president and the National Assembly. Zambia has a unicameral national assembly of 158 members, eight of whom the president nominates, while the citizens elect 150 for five-year terms. Members of the national assembly elect the speaker. The legislature drafts and passes national laws in the form of bills. For a bill to become law, the president has to approve and sign it.
Separation of Power
By establishing separation of power between the three arms of government, the Zambian constitution ensures accountability of the three both to the citizens and to other government branches. In that case, no branch operates independently without accountability to other branches.