RADICAL Revolutionary Party leader Vincent Chaile has argued that the unreasonable nomination fees proposed by the ECZ are overwhelming obstacles, prohibitive and only meant to deter the poor people from freely participating in the leadership of the country.
This is in a matter where Chaile has petitioned the Electoral Commission of Zambia over high nomination fees for presidential candidates in the Constitutional Court.
ECZ had asked the court to dismiss the petition for being wrongly before the Constitutional Court as it ought to have been taken to the High Court because it alleges discrimination based on the petitioner’s political rights and gender.
EZC chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano, in an affidavit in support of summons to strike out the petition and dismiss action, said neither the petition nor the affidavit verifying facts disclosed any alleged violation of the Constitution on the part of ECZ as alleged.
Nshindano said the petition and the affidavit verifying facts do not meet the requirements for actions that ought to be brought before court.
And in its skeleton arguments in support of summons to strike out the petition and to dismiss the action, ECZ said Chaile could not stop it from performing its statutory function of prescribing the election fee on the ground that his political right would be infringed.
“Given the provisions of Article 128(1) of the Constitution which clearly spells out the mandate of this court, the petition ought to be struck out and the action dismissed as it is frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the process of this court,” Nshindano said.
But is his skeleton arguments in support of summons in opposition of summons to strike out the petition and dismiss the matter, Chaile argued that the petition falls within the jurisdiction of the court as Article 128(1) of the Constitution Amendment Act No.2 of 2016 gives the Constitutional Court authority to hear a matter relating to the interpretation and contravention of the Constitution.
He lamented that his party was a practical example of the effects of unreasonable nomination fees.
“In 2016 general elections, as Radical Revolutionary Party, we needed to raise K2,888,000 for the total number of 1,897 positions. We only managed to raise K7,500 nomination fees for one position only. I (Chaile) was the only one who contested as a member of parliamentary for Munali Constituency,” Chaile explained.
He contended that for his party to contest the 2021 general elections with the current nomination fees, it needs to raise K4,580,000 for 1,879 positions across the country.
“With the current status of unreasonable nomination fees, we cannot afford to pay for a place on a ballot, none of our prospective candidates from our party, including myself, is participating or contesting for any position for 2021 general elections,” Chaile complained. “Our political rights have been curtailed by the ECZ. Most of our supporters across the country who believe in our party manifesto and philosophy are likely not to vote or participate freely in any political activity for 2021 general election.”
He submitted that the functions of ECZ must be exercised in the best interest of the citizens.
“The procedure of ‘determining’ the nomination fees is not defined in the Constitution or in any statutory instrument. When the Constitution says it has the jurisdiction to hear and ‘determine’ the matter, there are clear laid down procedures on how the Court or the Judge shall proceed on a matter,” Chaile said.
He wondered how the electoral body arrived at K95,000 for male presidential candidates and K75,000 for female presidential candidates and whether it was done by raising hands, by fee unit, or by command.
“Elections are a pillar of democracy and the respondent is a reference and if such words like determine are not well defined, don’t you think such has serious implications on our democracy? What if the respondent decides to peg the nomination fee at K1,000,000 or US $1 million for each candidate on nomination day? Is it going to be within the mandate of the ECZ to conduct free and fair election without curtailing our political rights?” Chaile questioned. “We were stretching a point on what criteria was used to come up with different nomination fees based on age and gender, when men, females and youths all have equal rights to vote, assemble, association and equal rights to participate in an election.”
He further submitted that the petition was rightly before the Constitutional Court as it establishes the cause of action and the specific constitutional provision that was violated.