The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) should partner with other stakeholders in effectively addressing the high voter apathy exhibited at recently held by-elections, says Democratic Governance and Human Rights Advocates (DEGHA) national coordinator Gerald Mutelo.
Mr Mutelo said false campaigns characterized by cheating have contributed to increased voter apathy because people remained disappointed after a lot of expectations from their elected leaders.
He said there was therefore need for ECZ to engage other stakeholders to try and educate members of the public on the importance of voting.
“The apathy is not good for our democracy. We need ECZ to partner with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), the Churches and trade unions in doing massive voter education in our nation to avoid voter apathy in the next by elections,”
Mr. Mutelo said the results have shown the wishes of the people, but that it was saddening to note the continuous low turnout of voters especially in the recent elections.
He said political players should avoid making promises which they knew would be impossible to make especially the Members of Parliament and the ward councilors.
“We are kindly advising our members of parliament and councilors that during campaigns they should not be promising things that they know they cannot do.
“Some MPs don’t even visit their constituencies making their representation unacceptable. How can MPs represent constituencies which they do not even consult or give feed back to? Who really has the power- is it the MPS or the electorates?” he asked.
He explained that some parliamentarians only listened to their political party leaders instead of discussing matters concerning their areas with the people, which was a major reason for apathy.
Mr. Mutelo explained that there was need for people to understand the roles of the Republican President as an administer, MPs as law makers and to provide checks and balances as well as ratifications and approving the national budget among other things while the Judiciary interpreted the laws and enforced them.
“If voters understand the functions of the above we are going to reduce voter apathy, all stakeholders must work together to reduce voter apathy in the up coming elections in the country,” he said.
And DEGHA has condemned the use of traditional leaders to gain political mileage by some political parties as it demeaned cultural norms.
“Chiefs are our parents who can not be choosing which children they liked whenever there was an election. Traditional leaders are respected people who will lose respect if they start behaving like cadres when they should have a lot of influence among their subjects, but that might be affected in the political arena,
“They have the right to ensure that the Electoral Code of Conduct and the Electoral Act is observed without fear or favour by all political parties including the ruling party, traditional leaders, NGOS, police, media and opposition political parties, ”he said
He said while congratulating the ECZ for speaking out firmly without fear on non participation of chiefs into active politics, the ECZ should continue to do its work professionally without favouring even the executive,” Mr. Mutelo said.
DEGHA has since called on the chairperson of the House of Chiefs to ensure that her members were sensitized on the law that guided Chiefs in a democratic society like Zambia.