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ECZ’s 30-day voter registration exercise is an unwarranted barrier for voters – Kasonde

CHAPTER One Foundation has urged the government to review its policies in order to better align them with democratic values and principles.

Celebrating the International Day of Democracy, which falls on September 15, executive director Linda Kasonde said it was essential that the government promotes the right to vote, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression for democracy to thrive.

“We further urge all political parties to use their campaign agendas to promote messages of national unity in line with our national values of ‘Patriotism and Unity’. Our democracy rests on the ability of Zambians to participate in all governance activities fully, freely and peacefully,” she said.

Kasonde said the International Day of Democracy serves as an opportunity to encourage governments to strengthen and reinforce democratic values in their respective States.

“Established through a UN General Assembly resolution in 2007, the International Day of Democracy stems from the core belief that effective democracy requires consistent review to safeguard the engagement of governing bodies, civil society and private citizens in democratic processes, ensuring the continued protection and effective realisation of human rights,” she said.

Kasonde said Chapter One Foundation believes that periodic, free and fair elections were a core element of democracy as they promote civic participation and enable voters to select their leaders and hold them accountable for their performance in office.

“As Zambia nears elections set for August 2021, it is imperative that a free and fair electoral process is promoted; one that is accessible to all potential voters. The decision by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to conduct voter registration for a period of only 30 days serves as an unwarranted barrier for voters, as the registration period is not sufficient for the ECZ to effectively capture all nine million eligible voters in the country,” she said in a statement. “In addition, the limitation of the mobile national registration card issuance to certain areas of the country provides an additional barrier, potentially disenfranchising eligible voters.”

And Kasonde said Chapter One Foundation was equally concerned at the violence exhibited during by-elections across Zambia.

She said the violence was often accompanied by tribal sentiments that have the effect of undermining national unity.

“We call on all political parties to desist from violence and using divisive language during election campaigns. Additionally, Chapter One Foundation bemoans the suspension and cancellation of media licences, such as that of Muvi TV and Prime TV. This has adverse effects on Zambian democracy as it limits the information disseminated to the public,” said Kasonde. “Unbiased information from a variety of sources is critical in order for Zambians to make informed decisions for effective civic participation. Moreover, the use of the COVID pandemic to restrict freedom of expression and assembly as witnessed during the recent youth protests of 22nd June 2020, has further dented Zambia’s image as an emerging democracy.”

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