Six civil society organisations have constituted an alliance to enhance civic and voter education and monitor the 2016 tripartite elections in Zambia with an effort to promote free and fair elections.
The Anti- Voter Apathy Project (AVAP), Foundation for Democratic process (FODEP), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia, Operation Young Vote (OYV), Southern Africa Centre For the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) and Zambia National women’s Lobby (ZNWL) have agreed to work together by forming an alliance known as the Zambia Electoral Alliance (ZEA).
The alliance which was non-partisan said that apart from a robust regular election monitoring exercise to cover all polling stations and streams, the team would also use the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) on sampled streams in order to authenticate the electoral results from Electoral Commission Zambia (ECZ).
Alliance chairperson Juliet Chibuta that the group intended to enhance the electoral process in Zambia and would also seek to advocate for legal reforms in order to improve the conduct of elections in Zambia and enhance voter confidence.
Ms Chibuta said the objective of the ZEA whose motto is “Credible Elections Our Inspiration” was to contribute towards the attainment of free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in Zambia.
“ZEA is inspired by the holding of free, fair, credible and peaceful elections that will allow Zambians to grow their democracy and thereby thrive. The Alliance will do this through conducting civic and voter education and election monitoring”.
“The alliance will work through its members and will create structures at national, provincial, district and constituency levels in order to coordinate its activities,” she said.
Ms Chibuta explained also that ZEA would play a key role in promoting electoral issues at regional, continental and global level and would collaborate with other bodies such as African Union Election Section, SADC-Council of NGOs (SADC-CNGO, Electoral Institute for sustainability in Southern Africa (EISA) and SADC-ESN.
She said that the electoral process in Zambia faced several challenges which had made it impossible for the system to be more effective.
The ZEA chairperson cited the poor administration of the Public Order Act by the Zambia Police which gave a lot of leeway to the party in government while imposing restrictions on opposition parties and the biased mainstream media coverage of contesting candidates and their parties which in most cases led to unfair competition by not abiding by the electoral code of conduct.
Ms Chibuta said also that some traditional leaders were also biased by influencing their subjects to support candidates of their choice and that has led to continuous intimidation of voters in rural areas which also in breach of Article 129 of the constitution. She added that the alliance had noticed that there was general increase in the loss of confidence by voters in the electoral process as most people felt that elections were rigged in favor of the party in government.
“This has led to voters thinking that their vote does not make a difference as elections are predetermined and also some polling stations are too far from voters which discourages them from going to vote as they have to choose between providing for their families and voting.
“The lack of integrity and poor performance by some of the elected leaders has also led to some voters viewing elected leaders as selfish individuals who are only out to use voters for their personal interest and gain and continued incidences of vote buying,” Ms Chibuta said.
She also said that the Alliance noted that women, youth and persons with disabilities were not given an equal share to participate in elections as candidates and voters.
and that the alliance would embark on nationwide sensitization activities while also advocating for reforms of the laws that were undemocratic and hinder citizens’ active participation in the electoral process as a way to address the above challenges.
The Alliance would also engage stakeholders such as the Zambia Police Service, political parties, media and traditional leadership on how best to prevent election related violence and corruption in order for citizens to freely participate in the voting process.