PF must avoid electoral blackmail, says GEARS

NASON Msoni has said only those who are morally bankrupt can shamelessly celebrate a bloodbath election victory that has left behind a trail of blood of maimed and severely injured citizens.


Meanwhile, GEARS Initiative Zambia acting executive director Peter Mwanangombe says the party in power should avoid electoral blackmail so that voters can make their electoral decisions freely in any elections.
Msoni stated in a statement yesterday that in a normal society where a Constitution functions, the Chilanga by-election would have been nullified.

“Only morally bankrupt idiots can shamelessly celebrate a bloodbath election victory that has left behind a trail of blood of maimed and severely injured citizens. In a normal society defined by ethics and morals, the minister responsible for maintaining law and order should have tendered his resignation on his own last [Tuesday] night. In a normal functioning nation with a sane Head of State, he would have, as a priority this morning, condemned the violence and called for the immediate arrest of all perpetrators of violence and their collaborators,” Msoni stated.
“In a normal society, a minister responsible for justice cannot willy-nilly be seen toasting a blood stained election victory with criminals. In a normal society, journalists doing their work ought to be respected. Attacking journalists clearly signals the state and extent of lawlessness in a nation; a society in which hooligans rampage, gun brazing in broad daylight with State weapons issued to them by desperate authorities clearly points to the extent of moral bankruptcy and the breakdown in the rule of law.”


And Mwanangombe stated in a statement that the Electoral Commission of Zambia, working with the police, must satisfactorily enforce the electoral code of conduct without fear or favour during elections.
“We would like to note the results by the ECZ that declared Mrs Maria Langa and the PF as having won the Chilanga parliamentary seat. We also note all those who contested the by-election and the UPND candidate Ms Charmaine Musonda for putting up a spirited fight. Going forward, we recommend that: the party in power should avoid electoral blackmail so that voters can make their electoral decisions freely. Political parties should denounce political violence and embrace coexistence. ZNBC, Daily Mail, Times of Zambia as public media should provide equal coverage to all contesting candidates as per constitutional provisions. Further, ECZ should regulate media coverage for contesting candidates during election,” Mwanangombe stated.
“The ruling party should desist from deploying ministers to polling stations as this has potential to intimidate and influence voting preferences. ECZ should consider declaring local government and parliamentary election days as half working days so that voters can be accorded a chance to exercise their democratic right. Ministers deployed in campaigns must be made to go on leave to avoid abusing public resources including time.”
The organisation stated the just ended Chilanga by-election was characterised by voter apathy, ministerial presence, pockets of violence and confrontation up to the election-day, which to a larger extent influenced the outcome of the by-election.
“The uncensored presence of ministers, biased public media coverage of candidates, acts of violence, blackmail and the casual enforcement of the electoral code undermined the credibility of the Chilanga electoral process and outcomes,” Mwanangombe stated.
He stated that his organisation was saddened by the manner in which some contesting candidates and their supporters conducted themselves during the nomination process.
“We noted with concern the intimidation and violence against journalists during the process. The Electoral Commission of Zambia should enforce the electoral code of conduct without fear or favour to ensure that all players adhere to the rules.  We are however pleased with the representation of women in the said by-election. Their participation should be commended and encouraged. We note with concern the name and character assassination based campaigns and political violence that rocked Chilanga ahead of the June 5, 2018 polls. The campaign generally lacked issues but merely propagated hate speech and negative remarks targeted especially at female candidates. We also observed intimidation of would be voters, as well as electoral blackmail,” Mwanangombe stated.
“In a democratic society, it is expected that voters are given accurate information for them to make informed choices. Intimidation of voters and electoral blackmail holds no place in democracy and to that end, we strongly condemn such acts. GEARS is pleased with the radio stations that provided platforms for all contesting candidates. However, the public media continues to defy the provisions of the code by its continued favourable coverage only to the ruling party while private media covers only those parties that can afford to provide incentives to media personnel. This trend is not good for the growth of electoral democracy. It was reported that there was a group of carders from PF and UPND seen at Mundawanga polling station engaging in a fight. However, the police managed to calm the situation and had arrested those involved.”
He stated that during the Chilanga by-election, ECZ run out of election material at Mundawanga polling station and that the situation took some time before it was rectified.
“This development frustrated some voters who decided shun the vote. The presence of ministers in polling stations was noticed. This, in a way potentially influenced, intimidated and coerced voters. It was reported by our monitors that there has been defacing and removing of campaign posters. This act was being perpetrated by most of the contesting parties with the PF and UPND being at the centre of the act. GEARS observed with great concern, the continued electoral blackmail by the ruling PF. It has been reported that the deputy secretary general warned the people of Chilanga of no development should they not vote for PF and another minister cautioned the electorate not to vote for UPND if they were not to be labelled Tonga tribalists,” stated Mwanangombe.

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