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NURTURING DEMOCRACY

FREE and fair elections are an imperative for any fully functioning democracy. For these elections to be declared free and fair by the election monitors, a number of conditionalities must be fulfilled. Such conditionalities must prevail, before during and after the polls.  

As a democracy, Zambia, cannot avoid observing all the tenets of free and fair elections. Anything that falls short, would be an indictment on our democracy as a country.

With this in mind, we want to point out that the campaign period forms a crucial part of this and it is no wonder that all observers will allude to the campaign period in their election monitoring report.

Voter turnout is also a major part of this because an election calls upon all eligible citizens to turn up and vote. 

When voters decide to stay home and shun an election that is an indicator of something profound having gone wrong. It is incumbent upon leaders, both in government and opposition, to interrogate the situation to find answers. It would be wrong to continue as if nothing happened.

For instance, Kabwata Constituency in Lusaka has a registered voting population of 108,000 yet less than 30,000 voted. That means 78,000 couldn’t be bothered to go and cast their vote; to choose their area member of Parliament. This is not just concerning but a very big blow to the development of democratic tenets. It should worry everyone, not just the ruling party but the opposition as well. It means that more than 70,000 registered voters did not see the need or feel compelled to go and vote. Knowing the reasons behind this decision would help many political parties plan for elections better.

It is also a big worry that incidents of violence, which have been noted by an independent group of monitors, were not addressed by the Electoral Commission of Zambia.

The Christian Churches Monitoring Group Statement has noted in its observation    of the February 3 Parliamentary By-Election in Kabwata Constituency that, “Despite the electoral environment being generally calm and peaceful, CCMG notes with concern three (3) incidents of violence which involved UPND as perpetrators while PF were victims in two incidents and community members in one, and one (1) use of inflammatory and insulting language. 

These acts violate the Electoral Code of Conduct and CCMG calls on the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to enforce the Electoral Code of Conduct and the Police to investigate all acts of politically motivated violence and punish the perpetrators.”

In not so many words, the monitors are saying that while the ECZ was aware of these violations, it did not act as provided for under the Electoral Act. The ECZ has power to disqualify any candidate or political indulging in violence, because this is a violation of the ACT. 

And because every politician knows that the ECZ will not act, they break the Electoral Act with impunity.

The Church Grouping also notes that,  “CCMG strongly condemns the continued lack of action by parties and therefore calls on UPND and PF, to immediately take disciplinary action against those members responsible for these acts and for all political parties to ensure that members found perpetrating violence or other violations of the Code face consequences. “

Other parts of the report indicate that some people voted without NRCs and nine polling station didn’t disclose or paste results.

These are all issues which should be sorted and never feature because the Act is clear about voting and rules governing polling stations.

Democracy must be nurtured not brutalized.

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