President Edgar Lungu can stand in presidential elections due in 2021 without breaching a constitutional two-term limit, Zambia’s top court ruled on Friday, rejecting an opposition challenge. The ruling will strengthen Lungu’s hand at a time when Zambia, Africa’s second largest copper producer, is grappling with mounting debt and an economic slump caused by depressed commodity prices.
Lungu’s first period in office lasted only one year and six months, when he took over after the death of the previous elected president, Michael Sata. He then won election in a disputed vote to a second, full term in August 2016.
Lungu’s supporters argued that the constitution says a president is only deemed to have served a term if he is in office for at least three years of the full five-year term.
Constitutional Court President Hildah Chibomba said the ruling by the seven judges of the court had been unanimous.
Opposition leader Hakainde Hichelema, who heads the United Party for National Development, criticised the ruling as effectively opening the way to a third term for Lungu. The opposition cannot appeal the ruling as the Constitutional Court is the highest tribunal in Zambia.