Zambia's elections - free and fair?


Photo Reporting: Zambia's elections - free and fair?Zambia's elections - free and fair?

23 January 2015

Vote counting was nearing its end in Zambia on Friday in a tight race between Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF) and Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND).



Tuesday's (20.01.2015) presidential election was called to find a successor to Michael Sata who died in October. Voting was extended for two days after the organizers faced "logistical challenges" when delivering voting materials to remote regions.

DW: How well organized were these elections?

Juliet Chibuta: The elections were well organized. The only thing is that they were held during the rainy season, and in Zambia there are some parts of the country which usually get cut off during this period and the roads become very bad. These are the logistical challenges that faced these elections. But also the Electoral Commission of Zambia had no choice but to hold these elections during this time because our constitution dictates that when a president dies the Electoral Commission has to hold an election within 90 days. So from the beginning when they were preparing for this election they knew that they would face these logistical challenges. That's why as civil society we have been calling upon government to make sure that the constitution is reviewed so that we don't face such kind of challenges [in future].

Were these elections free and fair?

We have chosen to say that these elections were peaceful and the voters who did vote did so freely and without hindrance. We cannot say that they were free and fair, because there were many people who were disenfranchised. They weren't allowed to vote. Prior to an election we usually have voters' registration. But what happened this year is that the Electoral Commission did not conduct voters registration to allow people who have moved to from one place to another - and also the young people who have become 18 - to get themselves added to the voters register. They olny allowed people who have lost their voting cards to acquire new ones. So many people were disenfranchised. And also if you look at voters' turnout, it was very low at about 35 percent and you can see that most of the Zambian people didn't vote.

On the first day of polling, Hakainde Hichilema claimed that there had been vote fraud, did you see any sign of vote rigging?

We monitored the election as civil society and we do not have any evidence of rigging. The best thing Hichilema should do is provide the evidence to the Electoral Commission and to follow the law. The law states that one needs to take matters to court where one can provide evidence. I think it is important to allow the Electoral Commission of Zambia to finalize its process of tallying the votes and announcing the results. Since the Electoral Commission started announcing the votes, we have seen different political parties, not only UPND but also PF going to the Electoral Commission and trying to interfere. It is important that we allow the Electoral Commission of Zambia to do its work, because they are the professionals and are the ones who have been charged by the law to handle the elections. If there is any malpractice or anything suspected, it is better to take it to the law and the due process of the law is followed.

According to local media, Hichilema says he is narrowly in the lead and he is not ready to concede defeat. How - in your opinion - will he react if he loses?

According to the results which have been announced by the Electoral Commission so far, the Patriotic Front is leading. We are waiting to get more results from the Electoral Commission of Zambia. Hakainde Hichilema had been claiming that he won even before we went to the polls to vote. He has been claiming that he has won the election, because he has gone through the country and people are supporting him and want him to take over. From the beginning he had said that if he loses this election it is the ruling PF that have stolen the election. What he is saying now is not different from what he has said [previously].

As a civil society organization we are appealing for him to be patient and to follow the due process of the law, because if he is saying such things as the leader of a large opposition party, what can one expect of his followers? We would not want to find ourselves in a situation where there is violence in this country. If there is violence in the country it is the women and the children who will be affected. We are appealing to him and the others who will lose the election to concede defeat, just like it has been happening over the past years in Zambia, all presidents that have lost conceded defeat. So we are just appealing to him to follow the due process of the law, if there is something he does not agree with, it would be better if he takes the matter to court.

Juliet Chibuta is the Executive Director of Zambia National Women's Lobby

Interview: Asumpta Lattus

Source: Deutsche Welle



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