Avoid hate, tribal messages in campaigns-VJ

THE campaigns for the 2016 general elections should be devoid of personal attacks, hate messages, violent language or tribal speeches, veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga has advised.

Dr Mwaanga said following the passing of the Constitution Amendment Bill of 2015 by Parliament last week, Zambians were now aware that the 2016 elections would be held on the second Thursday of August and all political parties should be allowed to conduct their campaigns freely across the country. Dr Mwaanga said in a statement to the Daily Nation that general elections were not just an event but a process which he said should start with fairness in the registration of voters and the application of the Public Order Act (POA).

He said fairness of the general elections also depended on the state of preparedness of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), an institution mandated to superintend on the electoral process of the country.

Dr Mwaanga said it was of paramount importance that next year’s general elections should be free, fair, open, transparent, credible and democratic to avoid the acrimonious disputes which had characterized the past elections.

He said electoral disputes in Zambia had often been a source of acrimony, anger and violence and it was therefore critical that all political parties participating in the elections should be allowed to campaign freely.

“Following the adoption of the new Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill by Parliament a few days ago, we all know that the general elections will be held on the 11th August 2016.

‘‘Elections are not just an event but a process which starts with fairness in the issuance of the National Registration Cards, voter registration, state of preparedness by the Electoral Commission of Zambia and fairness in the application of the Public Order Act.

‘‘All political parties taking part in the elections must be allowed to campaign freely in all the 10 provinces. It is paramount that the campaigns should be issue-based and should not be based on personalized attacks or contain hate messages or tribal speeches,” Dr Mwaanga said.

He said there was need to amend the Public Order Act to level the playing field for all candidates that would be participating in the elections next year.

Dr Mwaanga said it was important to establish a binding code of conduct for the media to which all media houses, both public and private, should ascribe to and commit themselves to provide fair, equal and balanced coverage for all political parties.

He proposed that both the Electoral Act and the Electoral Code of Conduct should be amended to make the entire electoral process more open and transparent to include the Parallel Voter Tabulation (PVT).

“Disputed elections are not good for our country as they have the potential to ignite violence which is totally unacceptable in a democratic society.

‘‘We should learn from the good practices of other countries and move with the times. The electoral process should make it easier for losing candidates to accept the outcome of the free, fair and transparent general elections,” Dr Mwaanga said.