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‘Elections are not a single event’

THE Electoral Commission of Zambia must step in, become proactive and at least avoid making this year’s polls a complete sham. Save face.

The Commission’s undertakings – right from voter registration process to the unilateral decision over the voter printing, including curtailing road shows – over the August 12 polls have been thorny. It is as though the ECZ does not appreciate the universal take that, “Elections provide means by which competition in society can be channelled into a constructive process with common rules to choose representatives of the people. Robust democratic institutions are usually understood as the ultimate guarantor for social peace. However, since electoral processes are intrinsically about the attainment of political power, often in high-stake contexts, elections – as a process of competition for power – can be catalysts of conflict.”

But the next three weeks will be pivotal – a defining moment for the ECZ. It will not help this country by making the presidential and general elections a mere fulfillment of the constitutional calendar event. So far this year’s poll is becoming increasingly a competition between PF and itself – in terms of physical activity and electioneering! Edgar Lungu’s regime is enjoying the lion’s share of media presence – newspapers, online and broadcast, add to that physical access to the electorate. How can this not be defined as a sham election?

As USLegal defines it, “Sham elections refer to elections that are held without any purpose or significance purely for show. Sham elections are a common event in dictatorial regimes that still feel the need to establish some element of public legitimacy.”

And we agree with Vernon Mwaanga when he rightly states that, “We live in a global village in our one world. What happens in one country attracts attention everywhere. The American Charge d’Affaires David Young has rightly raised the alarm about the unfairness of the current election campaigns, where the ruling PF government candidates and party operatives are being allowed to campaign freely in some parts of the country while opposition candidates are being prevented from campaigning freely. How can such an unfair campaign environment produce a fair election outcome? My answer is NO. The public media, continues to display outright bias in favour of the ruling party. Opposition candidates continue to be denied equal access as required by the UN, AU and SADC guideline. The opposition get publicity mainly, only when there is something negative to report about them. It is beyond dispute, that the forthcoming elections we are holding on 12th August, will be held in a COVID-19 pandemic, where the Covid protocols must apply to all political parties in equal measure. A number of countries have held elections during this pandemic era, by affording all the participating political parties equal and fair access to the media, particularly the public media. They have been able to hold public meetings, where social distancing and wearing of masks was largely observed. The people of Zambia have a right to know what all the political parties are offering them, to enable them make informed choices on voting day. The absence of even and fair access to the public media shrinks the democratic window of free, fair, transparent and democratic elections. Election results must truly, fairly and genuinely reflect the wishes of the people. Elections are not a single event. They are a process, which must be fair and transparent at all stages…In the prevailing campaign atmosphere, it is impossible for opposition political parties to put their messages directly to the people. In the remaining four weeks of the campaigns before election day, let the Electoral Commission of Zambia ensure that the campaign process is free and fair for all the participating political parties. They should also take a much stronger stance against violent political parties; ensure fair and equitable access to the public media; ensure that officials of political parties who practice or utter tribal and hate speeches are banned from campaigning; make sure that every part of the election process is observed at all stages, including the tallying process, which is a contentious issue, bearing in mind what happened in Lundazi and other areas in 2016. Our country cannot and should not have another disputed election. Disputed elections are a source of tension and even conflict in many countries of the world, which our country can do without. Let elections not divide us and cause hatred. Elections come and go, but we must always live together as brothers and sisters by upholding the spirit of ONE ZAMBIA, ONE NATION.”

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