The pre-election assessment of Zambia’s preparations for the 2011 tripartite elections conducted by NDI is accurate and in as much as it reveals both positive and negative features, the assessment should be accepted as factual. More importantly, the pre-election assessment should be an indicator to the public on how far the country has gone and is yet to achieve in consolidating democracy and strengthening the electoral process.
Firstly, it is imperative for all presidential candidates to seriously follow through with the recommendations of publically issuing explicit, forceful and repeated calls for peaceful elections and to publically sanction their party members who engage in electoral violence. Such public statements will assure the people of Zambia that all political parties and their candidates are committed to holding ‘free and fair’ elections because in this way, many of the electorate will be able to exercise their right to participate in all stages of the electoral process, especially on election day, without fear of being in harm’s way. Failure by the political parties to articulate this through all their party structures could lead to high levels of electoral violence. FODEP is therefore calling on the presidential candidates to take this responsibility of publically denouncing electoral violence and all forms of political intimidation seriously.
Secondly, it is extremely important for candidates and leaders of all political parties to consistently refer to and promote strict adherence to the electoral code of conduct as part of their contribution to building a credible electoral process. FODEP acknowledges that the legal framework that governs our electoral system has gaps and challenges, however, all stakeholders, political parties, media, church mother bodies, law enforcement agencies and all Zambians must promote the development of a political culture that encourages lawful behavior and civic respect for democratic processes. FODEP is therefore challenging all political parties to join hands with all stakeholders and ensure that all copies of the electoral code of conduct are distributed as widely as possible across the nation and to hold community public discussion forums on adherence to this important instrument.
Thirdly, it is important to note that developing a political and civic culture is the only way to avoid electoral violence, political intimidation and electoral disputes. This responsibility is not only for civil society, but political parties, media, every citizen and government institutions. It is one thing to play songs of peace and unity on the airwaves and another thing to remain mute when party cadres are going about beating each other up, endangering people’s lives and destroying property. It is one thing to issue calls of peace without mentioning any steps to be taken to ensure that such calls are respected. FODEP would like to see a scenario whereby all political parties will constantly keep the public abreast with policies and measures that are being undertaken to promote a lawful society, one built on respect for human rights and upholding electoral rights.
Fourthly, FODEP will continue its efforts of lobbying and advocating for an appropriate constitutional and statutory framework for representative government and electoral process. We will continue making contributions to ensuring that our Election management body, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) progressively becomes more transparent, independent and impartial in the eyes of the Zambian people and this is because a successful electoral process depends on the confidence of the electorate in the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ)’s ability to manage the electoral process. Our efforts, as usual will also include enhanced civic and voter education that will seek restore and build confidence in the electoral process and this is a challenging task.
Finally, FODEP would like to encourage each and every Zambian to make an effort of accessing and analyzing the Electoral Code of Conduct. More importantly, we urge the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), Civil Society, the media, and every Zambian to find innovate ways of ensuring that the Electoral Code of Conduct is made readily accessible to every Zambian and to promote credibility in the electoral process. Remember, citizen ownership and popular participation is the cornerstone of any democratic process.
Ms. Hope Mubanga
Executive Committee (NEC): Dr. Alex Ng’oma President, Ms. Mirriam Chonya, Vice President, Ms. Nalukui Milapo, National Secretary, Mr. Martin Mbewe, Vice-National Secretary, Mr. McDonald Chipenzi, Executive Director