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Morality, integrity and elections

NEVERS Mumba says the choice of leaders of morality and integrity is threatened by the alien system of choosing leaders in most nations.

He says democracy operates more effectively in an environment where voters are educated and enlightened.

Mumba notes that in most of Africa, the electoral processes serve the interests of the powerful few who manipulate the outcome of elections using money and riding on both the poverty and ignorance of the electorate.

“I am of the view that in order for my continent to encourage leaders of morality and integrity to lead, we must interrogate and challenge the current electoral processes, which continue to bar those who wish to play by the rules. The question we must not be afraid to answer is whether democracy in its current shape is helping our quest for a moral leadership on the continent of Africa,” Mumba told members of the Cross River State House of Assembly in Calabar, Nigeria on Monday. “To make Africa great, we must invest in great leaders of morality and integrity. We must change the rules of electing our leaders and create new systems, which are not hostile to men and women of integrity. Most electoral systems in Africa favour the corrupt, who are morally bankrupt and have no passion nor heart for their nations. Such politicians forget that rigging elections is rigging the very future of their own children.”

They say electoral integrity is a central building block for the quality of democracy in general, and for electoral freedom and fairness in particular.

And fraudulent electoral practices, in turn, influence voters’ level of satisfaction with the way democracy works.

According to Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, electoral malpractice are perceived more benignly in new democracies.

The moment elections start to display the telltale signs of manipulation and malpractice, winning and losing no longer have different effects on voter’s levels of satisfaction with democracy.

Manifestations of electoral fraud affect individuals by constraining the electoral choices available and by adding a layer of arbitrariness between citizens’ preferences and their translation into seats.

Thus, the journal states, electoral fraud in general acts as an additional filter hindering citizens from shaping policy outcomes, and is likely to affect perceptions of accountability and responsiveness. Under conditions of electoral fraud, electoral figures can no longer be considered reliable expressions of the general will but become by-products of electoral manipulation.

Nevers’ observation needs attention as Zambia prepares for the 2021 general elections. Already we are seeing processes around the Constitution, electoral law and other subsidiary laws.

We cannot forget the sham by the Constitutional Court over the 2016 presidential petition!

Electoral malpractice – the illegal interference with electoral process can include illegal registration, intimidation at polling stations and improper counting of voters plus vote stuffing. Under the PF, malpractice has even taken the face of blocking competitors – the opposition – from conducting mobilisation activities. Even during elections campaign period, the opposition is restricted. Surely, what kind of democracy is this!

A study conducted in Nigeria on electoral fraud noted that everything that happens, good or bad, has a cause.

The paper states that numerous economic issues and instability make people anxious about their future. Some people are said to be eager to join a party and start a political career to build their personal financial ‘nest’ and eat their part of the national cake. That is, they are only thinking about personal wealth. They have no desire to help the nation change for the better and the economy to develop.

Politicians today have learnt the art of using our people’s suffering, poverty, as a favourable campaign tool. The PF used it in 2011 to their advantage, but today the country is worse off economically and socially. It is not a secret that the majority of our citizens are poor and add to that are the high unemployment levels.

Poverty, low salaries, joblessness and illiteracy are themes being used by politicians who make their promises to the electorate but never keep their word. It is said poverty and corruption are real ‘friends’ and are extremely loved by politicians.

And we have seen over the years that people who cannot afford food are willing to trade their vote for bread or even money. Should this be the way we canvass votes or seek high office?

Certainly, we need to reform our electoral system to ensure citizens are afforded the right to elect leaders of their choice. In saying this, we are alive to the fact that bringing about transparent, free and fair electoral processes will not come easy. The elite, powerful few, won’t let go easily. When it is easy to get away with lies and fraud, there’s always a huge temptation to maintain the status quo. In our case, the PF will not willingly come forward to bring about real democratic changes. They will always entrench unfairness to perpetuate their stay in office and continue amassing wealth.

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