LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambian President Edgar Lungu has warned constitutional court judges not to stop him running for another term in office, state media reported, drawing a rebuke from a top legal body.
Lungu told supporters on Thursday the judges could plunge the southern African country into chaos if they made any “adventurous” rulings, the Zambia Daily Mail and Times of Zambia reported.
Allies of Lungu’s Patriotic Front party have asked the Supreme Court to confirm that he will be eligible to stand again in presidential elections scheduled for 2021.
Opponents say that would break the constitution which bars leaders from standing for three terms. He argues his first period in office doesn’t count as he took over after the death of the last leader without an election.
Lungu told a political meeting in the northwestern town of Solwezi that he had information that the judges were thinking of barring him from standing again, the newspapers said.
“To my colleagues in the Judiciary, I am just warning you because I have information that some of you want to be adventurous, your adventure should not plunge us into chaos please,” Lungu was quoted as saying.
He said they should not follow the example of Kenya’s Supreme Court, which annulled the result of a presidential vote in August.
There was no immediate comment from Zambia’s Supreme Court, which is due to meet to consider the election case on Nov. 16.
The Law Association of Zambia asked Lungu on Friday to withdraw his warning saying it served “to undermine the authority of the judiciary and erode public confidence in the institution”.
There was no immediate response from the presidency.
Lungu invoked emergency powers on July 5 to deal with “acts of sabotage” by his political opponents. The state of emergency expired on Oct. 11. [L8N1JX3YC]
(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Andrew Heavens)