The Electoral Commission of Zambia

[By Simon Kalolo Kabanda]

There have been various questions and concerns about the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and its management of elections. One of the concerns is about its composition.

What does the Constitution say about the composition of the ECZ? Article 229 (1) states as follows:

“There is established the Electoral Commission of Zambia which shall have offices in Provinces and progressively in districts.” The Constitution however does not provide for the composition of the ECZ. Why?

On Friday 21 October 2016, government appointed a commission of inquiry to examine the voting patterns and electoral violence. “The mandate of the Commission was to enquire into the voting patterns in the general elections conducted from 2006 to 2016 and the electoral violence that characterised the 2016 general elections. This was in order to come up with recommendations that will prevent the recurrence of violence in future elections and ensure that voting outcomes are reflective of the people‘s free will.” (Report of The Commission of Inquiry into Voting Patterns and Electoral Violence, January 2019, p. 2).

On the composition of the ECZ, the Commission recommended the following:

“(a) Government should alter the composition of the ECZ so that it comprises both non-partisan and partisan members. In this regard, the ECZ should be made up of independent, nonpartisan individuals chosen based on their expertise, through a transparent appointment procedure; and representatives of registered political parties (i.e., partisan members) who should be nominated by political parties with representation in Parliament;

“(b) Government should ensure that the appointment procedure of Commissioners of the ECZ is provided for in the Constitution, against the background that the Electoral Commission is established by the Constitution” (pp. 179-180).

But why has the Constitution not provided for the composition of the ECZ? When does government plan to provide for the composition of the ECZ in the Constitution? Article 84(4) of the first draft Constitution of the Technical Committee on Drafting the Zambian Constitution (2011-2013) provided as follows:

“The Electoral Commission shall be national in character, non-partisan and be composed of –

(a) persons who have held or qualify to hold the office of judge; and (b) representatives of civil society organisations as specified in an Act of Parliament.”

It is not enough for the Constitution to simply provide for the establishment of the ECZ without providing for its composition. It is important that the Constitution provides for its composition as well as the appointment procedure of Commissioners, as recommended by the Commission of Inquiry into Voting Patterns and Electoral Violence. This will even contribute to building some confidence in the ECZ.

If you have any question or issue regarding the Constitution and/or related matters that you would like this column to discuss, kindly send a message to me either through SMS, WhatsApp: +260-761-206353, or email: shimwenya@yahoo.com.

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