Monday, July 29, 2013
INTERIM POST ELECTION STATEMENT ISSUED AT FODEP HOUSE ON 27TH JULY 2013 AT 10HRS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, McDonald CHIPENZI
INTERIM POST ELECTION STATEMENT ISSUED AT FODEP HOUSE ON 27TH JULY 2013 AT 10HRS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, McDonald CHIPENZI Dear Colleagues, Welcome to this briefing convened to update you on the just ended by-elections in Chipata Central, Kafulafuta, Mkushi North and Solwezi East. Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) monitored the process from the onset by placing monitors in sampled polling stations. We would like to pay tribute to our men and women who were on the ground in all the four constituencies to oversee the proceedings of the elections. FODEP would like to congratulate the winners in all the four constituencies and the losers for running a good race. We are all aware that the just ended by-elections were closely contested to an extent that in one constituency the winning margin was just 100 votes. The reason behind this high competition was perhaps the fact that the competing political parties wanted to break new grounds while others to defend their strength respectively. Participation of Women and person with disabilities FODEP observed that the just ended by elections showed an improvement in women participation but still no person with disability was considered. Political parties seem to have considered womenfolk in their adoption process. In at least three constituencies, there was a woman or two contesting the by-elections. With an improved consideration on the part of political parties, the ball is now in the hands of the electorate to give the women candidates chance to prove their worth in the electoral process. In this regard, FODEP pays special tribute to the people of Mkushi for ushering in a female MP, Ms Ingrid Mphande. She is the only woman who made it out of the four who contested the by-elections. As an organisation, we feel elated to the winning of a parliamentary seat by Ms. Mphande and wished more did so to increase women representation in the National Assembly. We therefore wish to encourage political parties to consider fielding more women in the forthcoming by-elections in Mkaika, Malambo, Petauke Central and Mulobezi scheduled for September, 2013. We also encourage women to take advantage of the good will from political parties and also the recurring by-elections to effectively position themselves in the electoral process before 2016. Changing electoral pattern and Strengthening of Democracy Interestingly, the just ended by-elections showed a historical electoral voting pattern in some constituencies save for Kafulafuta which could be an indication of the long standing belief by the Zambian people in the four constituencies that a strong parliamentary democracy and the separation of power principles are critical elements of good governance and a cornerstone for a flourishing democracy. By choosing to vote for both the ruling PF in Mkushi North, the MMD in Chipata Central, and the UPND in Kafulafuta and Solwezi East respectively, the electorate have clearly demonstrated that Zambians are proud of their multiparty democracy and are not ready to give up and dilute the values and principles of a multiparty parliament, which they embraced in 1991. Their preference for a mixed parliament as opposed to one dominated by a single political party has been overtly demonstrated from these electoral results. To demonstrate our claim, it is clear from history that Chipata central since MMD’s fortunes started waning after the 2001 elections; the constituency was dominated by opposition politics until after 2006 during late Levy Mwanawasa’s reign while the constituency is known for not having an MP to serve for more than one consecutive terms. Solwezi East, like Chipata Central, has been associated with opposition politics until 2006 when the then ruling MMD reclaimed it from the opposition. For Mkushi North, the constituency for a long time had been in the hands of the ruling party. The victories of both the former MP Musonda Mutale and the newly crowned, Ms. Ingrid Mphande reaffirms the people of Mkushi North’s association with the party in power. So the victories of the opposition in both constituencies and ruling party in one constituency are not a surprise. However, the opposition victory in Kafulafuta is most strange as the constituents for years in the area had been associating themselves with the party in power. It could have been the reason former MMD Member of Parliament James Chishiba had to resign from the opposition to take advantage of the electoral history and alignment of Kafulafuta. The opposition’s victory in these by-elections is a sign of serious changes in the undertones of the political dynamics in the country. Participation of Civil Servants and traditional leadership Despite parading some chiefs, District Commissioner and Police High Command at public rallies during the campaigns especially in Chipata Central aimed at canvassing support on behalf of the ruling party’s candidate, the people of Chipata Central could not be swayed, intimidated and their resolve to usher in an opposition Member of Parliament was unfettered. This is in itself another sign of people’s values in supporting effective checks and balances. Further, the continued participation of chiefs and civil servants in partisan politics indeed requires reflection from political parties on the need for them to respect the Constitution which clearly forbids the involvement of chiefs and civil servants in partisan politics, through all form of platforms. As indicated earlier, the involvement of traditional leaders in partisan politics either through direct campaigns for or sharing same political party platform with a particular political party (ies) and candidate (s) is an affront to the Constitution of Zambia, Article 129, electoral Act No. 12 of 2006 and Electoral Code of Conduct No.52 of 2011. Further, this act alone exposes the traditional leadership to ridicule and disrespect among its subjects. The loss of a PF candidate supported by a Paramount Chief is one clear example of an exposure of people’s defiance against their traditional leader. However, this is a demonstration that voting is a fundamental democratic right, which cannot be influenced by any form of intimidation or coercion. We reiterate our appeal to traditional leaders to be above partisan politics and preside over their subjects in a non-partisan manner as their responsibilities cut across partisan interests. Further, traditional leaders should be in the forefront in the defence of peace and the Constitution. Vote Buying and Electoral Malpractices In terms of malpractices, we would like to state that though there were some levels of malpractices during the by-elections such as isolated incidence of violence, vote buying, mudslinging, media biases, etc, the people voted for their preferred candidates in total disregard of the electoral gifts and blackmail offered to them. We would encourage the electorate to continue demonstrating their independence during elections and avoid being colonized by gifts and other philanthropic gifts because their vote is secret and it is their right. Electoral Commission of Zambia and Zambia Police Force We would like to commend the Zambia Police Force and the ECZ for policing and conducting the just ended by-elections in a professional and efficient manner respectively. ECZ broke all olds this time around by censuring the parading of Paramount Chief Mpezeni by President Michael Sata during a campaign rally in Chipata Central and the public broadcaster for not only covering but also giving more airtime to the ruling party. This bold stance by ECZ is the first in many years and has the potential to restore public confidence in the electoral management body. On the part of the police, FODEP never received any reports of cancelled or denied campaign rally by the police. This was an excellent way of administering the public order Act. We therefore, encourage the police to continue exhibiting this kind of professionalism and impartiality in the forthcoming by-elections if the command is to reclaim public confidence in their electoral policing. The Role of the Media and Performance The media, especially mainstream electronic media continue to tilt its coverage towards the party in power. As indicated above, it had to take the ECZ to censure the public broadcaster to give equal coverage to all participating parties. Throughout the campaign period, opposition political party rallies were rarely covered except individual candidates and their leaders. If the opposition rallies were covered, it was just an end tail paragraph without any show of pictures of the rally itself while for the ruling party, the rallies were extensively covered. This is not fair enough in the promotion of credible, free and fair electoral competition. Apart from the live or recorded electoral debates, which in most cases were shunned by main opposition political parties’ candidates, presumably in protest of their not being covered, the media’s coverage of the entire electoral process needs much to be desired. However, the print media did their best to cover all political parties. There is need for the mainstream electronic media to balance their coverage of the electoral process in Zambia, as it is also in national interest and development for them to reflect on issues without discriminating. Declining Voter Participation and Causes FODEP’s main concern however, is the continued dwindling levels of people’s participation in these by-elections. None of the constituency recorded a 50 percent voter turnout. Among other reasons for the low turn-out could be partly due to voter fatigue because of unending by-elections in the country and long distances to polling stations in some cases. Voters and citizens generally are equally at some point questioning whether or not elections are translating into development or merely enriching a few. The following tables give general picture voter apathy. However, apart from distances and voter fatigue, other factors such as mobility, electoral violence, unfulfilled promises and mortality rates could have played a part to this apathy especially with lack of continuous voter registration and regular update of the voter’s roll to establish the exact number of voters residing in any particular constituency at the time of elections. The voter’s roll being used is that of 2011, which is 2 years old and the numbers could have reduced to due to the factors mentioned above. In Chipata Central, for example, of the 91,073 that are registered, 14,805 voted, marking a percentage of 16.2% turn out. Kafulafuta has 19,043 registered voters, 5,206 voted, a percentage of 27%, in Solwezi East with 21,530, 4,745 voters turned out, which is 22% of the total registered number. Mkushi North has 37,967 registered voters, 5,926 which is 15% turn-out. These figures are not encouraging and portray a very alarming situation and a threat to electoral democracy as it shows that key stakeholders-voters- are no longer interested in participating and sustaining it. It is a challenge to both the ECZ and Civil Society to find means of carrying out robust voter education and awareness, if electoral democracy is to be sustained in Zambia. We also appeal to our cooperating partners to consider funding voter education in Zambia. Distribution of Eligible Voters and Votes Cast-Per Constituency No Constituency Registered Voters(2011, ECZ) Votes Cast (Turn Out) Rejected Ballots Percentage(Turn Out) 1 Chipata Central 91,073 14,805 133 16.2% 2 Kafulafuta 19,247 5206 59 27 % 3 Mkushi North 37,967 5926 95 15.6% 4 Solwezi East 21,500, 4745 89 22% Lessons to Defectors Further, as you may know that majority of the seats contested in the just ended by-elections were as result of resignations of opposition MPs to join the ruling party. We are excited that those MPs were either not adopted or lost their seats. Special thanks go to the PF for not adopting these turncoats and also the people of Kafulafuta for not voting for one of the adopted. This is a good lesson and a warning shot to those still cogitating to follow suit and take advantage of the electorate. The unadopted and the defeated gambled and sacrificed their comfort hoping to enjoy more once in the ruling party, which fortunate has not happened. Had these turncoats been readopted or won, a long queue of defectors would have been formed immediately. Our Conclusion FODEP is happy with the peace that characterized the voting, declaration and post election environment. The peaceful electoral atmosphere that characterized the by-elections did not come by accident but a combination of factors among them the impartiality of the police, the efficiency and transparency of the ECZ, restraints from political players in the face of provocation among others. We are also pleased at the maturity of the losing candidates who have since accepted the electoral results and defeat. This is sign of appreciating competitive democracy. Now that voting has been done and the electorates have spoken through choosing of representatives to stand for their needs, interests and aspirations, the onus is on the elected to endure the pressures especially those from the opposition. Should they become weak, they will fall in the way of those before them. The expectations from the electorate are high and required steadfast minds. Therefore, fulfillment of the promises should be on top of the agenda. Finally, you all know that the elections in Zimbabwe are on 31st July, 2013. FODEP through its regional networks, such as SADC electoral Support Network (ESN), SADC- Lawyers Association among others will be in Zimbabwe to observe the Harmonized Elections. It is our prayer and hope that Zimbabwean harmonized elections will be peaceful, free of intimidation and that the will of the people will be respected during and after the polls.