ZESN observes Zambia’s elections

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network deployed a 15 member delegation to observe the tripartite elections in Zambia which were held on September 20, 2011.

A mother casts her vote with a baby on her back during the presidential election at a school in Chibolya on September 20.
A mother casts her vote with a baby on her back during the presidential election at a school in Chibolya on September 20.

The team observed the pre-election, election and post election phases of the Zambian Presidential, parliamentary and local government (tripartite) elections.

Election Day was generally peaceful, however, incidents of violence were reported at Lilanda, Kanyama and Nakatindi polling stations owing to the delay in opening the polling stations and the delivery of ballot boxes. It is important to note that when notified of these issues, the Electoral Commission of Zambia was quick to rectify some of the problems identified.

The ZESN mission noted that copies of the voters’ roll were easily accessible to the public and political parties. Voters were given voter cards bearing their image and other essential details similar to those on the voters’ roll. The ECZ had its ballot papers printed in South Africa citing lack of capacity within Zambia to produce them. Although this courted some controversy, the ECZ invited all political parties and civic society organisations to witness the ballot printing in South Africa and to accompany the ballot papers back to Zambia.

Media polarization

The mission did, however, note media polarization. The state or public media’s reportage was biased towards the incumbent Movement for Multiparty Democracy party and the mainstream private media reporting favourably on the main opposition parties. However, there were efforts to provide a semblance of balance with both private and public media conducting election debates covering all parties.

The ECZ established a total of 6 456 polling stations across the country, these were further divided into streams of not more than 850 people. The streaming was done to speed up the voting process.

Election results per voting stream were counted and recorded on polling station results sheets which were signed by political party agents and monitors. At constituency level Returning Officers announced the winners of the Parliamentary and Local government elections. Presidential returns for the presidential ballot were sent by electronic modems and satellite phones to the ECZ. The mission, however, noted delays in the announcement of the results in some constituencies which raised suspicion.

Co-ordinated effort

ZESN observed that the Zambian civil society had a coordinated effort in advocating for a free and fair election as well as in fostering peace and political tolerance among the opposing parties and deployed over 9 000 monitors.

The mission also commended the open invitation to regional and international observer missions such as Commonwealth Observer group, European Union Election Observer mission and others.

Although the ZESN mission noted a number of good practices during the Zambia elections there are a number of issues the Electoral Commission need to improve on.

There were no provisions for gender equality in the electoral processes and there is no clear framework on political parties finance.

Post published in: Africa News

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