Promoting democracy

Zambia as a signatory to the African Charter on Democracy, elections and Governance, has no choice but adhere to the universal values and principles of democracy and respect for human rights.  That is why we are concerned when initiatives that undermine this principle are manifested without ramification.

The whole purpose of elections in a democracy is to ensure that any Government constituted is representative of the electorate wishes and aspirations. People who are not elected can not lay any claim to leadership.

There can be no substitute to elections to choose a leader, especially in situations where democratic elections are the norm.

That is why the validity of elections must never be under any cloud. There should never be a doubt caused by the process as well as content. Any doubt will not only question the legitimacy but will ultimately affect the final outcome. The process refers to the manner in which the electorates are accorded access as well as transparency of the entire process while content refers to the manner in which the vote once cast is processed.

Both elements must be absolutely above board and any doubt resolved to the satisfaction of all. There was no room for such verification in 2011 because the atmosphere was charged, perhaps deliberately so to ensure a specific outcome was achieved failure of which would have resulted in general uproar or violence.

It was just as well that President Rupiah Banda conceded otherwise the nation would have experienced turmoil.

This has been the case in Malawi as it was in Kenya where highly dubious figures were introduced and have never been fully explained. The cases of more voters than the roll provided for repeated themselves in both elections.

This is why Military Governments have never gained ground, legitimacy or indeed traction on the African continent. They are considered vain outsiders and interlopers with no legitimate claim. It is infinitely better to be governed by politicians who form a less than perfect Government than to be governed by a perfect military regime.

The reasoning for this is simple. 

Elected public officials have a covenant with the electorate and will always endeavor, to fulfill the social contract, whereas un-elected officials have neither commitment nor indeed obligation to the citizenry or general membership of an organization they want to lead.

This same principle applies to political organizations. They must hold regular elections in order to ensure that the leadership remains responsive and therefore adheres to the interests, wishes and aspiration of the membership.

Sadly this continent has a very poor history in observing the Charter to which they have appended their signatures voluntarily.

Instead of promoting a democratic culture which upholds the supremacy of the constitution, leaders personalize institutions and supplant constitutions with their own preferences thereby creating internal strife and tension.

This is particularly true of countries that have failed to hold regular free and fair elections that institutionalize democracy. Authority must be legitimized through an election if it is to enjoy the full confidence of the people.

Anything done to subvert the democratic process will invariably lead to a very unsatisfactory and contentious result because nothing can replace an election as a legitimizing process.

It also follows that a party that promotes internal coherence by sound democratic processes will also build strong Governance systems while in power. The converse is also true.

As a signatory to the Charter, Zambia has to do more than the perfunctory observance of basic democratic practices; it must encourage citizen participation id decision making especially those related to governance and development.