[By Simon Kabanda]
As elections are just around the corner, political parties are now lining-up adopting candidates to stand on their ticket to go into the National Assembly or district councils. There are also some people who are planning to stand as Independent candidates.
Who are Independent Candidates?
Why do people decide to stand as Independents? From the time Zambia reverted to multi-party democracy in 1991, we have seen many Independent candidates coming from a background of not being adopted to stand on a political party ticket.
During the 2016 elections, many Independent candidates stood as such because they had not been adopted by their political parties. And since the elections were presidential and general, some of these candidates were even campaigning for the presidential candidates of the political parties that had not adopted them. They were even using the campaign materials of the political parties. What this meant was that they were still members of those political parties, although they had stood as Independent candidates.
What does the Constitution state about the eligibility of Independent candidates?
Article 51(a) of the Republican Constitution states as follows:
“A person is eligible for election as an independent candidate for a National Assembly seat if the person is not a member of a political party and has not been a member of a political party for at least two months immediately before the date of the election”.
In this regard, those who stood as independents, without relinquishing their political party membership, had breached this Constitutional provision. In fact, those who stand as Independent candidates after not being adopted by their political parties may not be genuine. Who are the genuine independent candidates? Where should they come from?
Genuine Independent candidates should come from interest groups, such as trade unions, non‑governmental organisations, professional bodies, et al. Such interest groups can decide to identify some people who should go to the National Assembly or the district council to represent their interests. Such representatives would be answerable to no one but their interest group. Their concerns would be none other than those of their interest group. Their issues would be those that concern their interest group.
During this year’s elections, the Electoral Commission of Zambia should be very strict on this issue, and should not allow members of political parties to file in nominations as Independent candidates.
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