EU cautions Zambian politicians

ELECTORAL and political violence is damaging to the functioning of democracy and must be prevented, says the European Union.

Ambassador and head of the EU delegation to Zambia and COMESA Gilles Hervio said yesterday that in spite of a history of a stability and peaceful elections, it was regrettable that Zambia had witnessed several cases of political violence in the past years.

Mr Hervio said prevention of electoral and political violence was regrettably relevant to Zambia.

He said this during the official opening of European Centre for Electoral Support (ECSE) training workshop in Lusaka yesterday.

The participants at the training workshop were drawn from the Electoral Commission of Zambia and civil society involved in elections.

Mr Hervio said democracy was never given but maintained, nurtured and carefully guarded to succeed, flourish and set roots.

And the Foundation for Democratic Process (FOPED) executive director MacDonald Chipenzi has said poor adherence to the Electoral Code of Conduct had been attributed to weak enforceability of the code coupled with perceived partiality of its applicability.

Mr Chipenzi said this was so because individuals from ruling political parties both previous and present had allegedly gone unpunished when they breached the code while those from the opposition were reprimanded when they did the same. He said the application of the Electoral code of Conduct had also been questioned and exploited as political players would commit electoral atrocities when the Code was not applicable and behaved decently when the code was in force.

Mr Chipenzi said despite the longstanding view that an electoral process was a cycle, the code paid a blind eye to this fact, instead the code only applies after nominations when official campaigns commenced.

“The question is who takes care of the other part of the electoral cycle i.e. from the time the vacancy falls due to the nomination day in the case of by-elections and from the review of the legal framework to the post-election conflict resolution in the case for scheduled tripartite elections?

“The arguments that other laws such as the Constitution, Public Order Act; the Penal Code among others would be applicable during the void has to larger extent has been used to disadvantage the other players and has been sources of conflict in the electoral cycle with no one responsible to resolve the conflict generated thereof,” he said.    Mr Chipenzi said FODEP was aware that the Commission on many occasions had convened meetings with political parties and joint communiqués issued signalling commitment to conducting electoral campaigns which in many respects had not been respected by the very signatories.   He said this to some extent eroded political confidence in the effective and efficiency of these committees in conflict management in the electoral process.