Re-draft Constitution,  EU tells Zambia


A detailed review of the electoral legal framework and redrafting of any Constitutional provisions that are “unclear, ambiguous and conflicting” has been recommended by the EU observer team that monitored the 2016 general election. In its final report submitted yesterday in Lusaka, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) stated that overall the election was “largely professional” and was “highly competitive.” The report acknowledged the Electoral Commission of Zambia for generally demonstrating competence in conducting key electoral operations. However, monitors observed that the “organisation of four elections and a constitutional referendum concurrently reflected in some weaknesses in the implementation of logistics, counting, tabulation and voter education.”      The EU EOM also observed that both major parties made inflammatory statements during campaigns, contributing to increased tensions and serious incidents of violence. “The suspension of the electoral campaign by the EZC in the districts of Lusaka and Namwala was a disproportionate response, establishing an unfortunate precedent.”    Chief Observer and Member of the European Parliament, Cecile Kyenge, who returned to Zambia this week to present the final report, explained the need for reform in order to build confidence in future elections. “Zambia’s recent elections demonstrate that there is always room for improvement,” said Ms Kyenge. “While the elections were competitive, the process highlighted several areas where steps can be taken to enhance the inclusivity and credibility in future. The report also singled out the Constitutional Court for failing to provide clear, timely and authoritative directions to parties regarding the timeline for the opposition’s challenge of the presidential election results, thereby undermining public confidence in the election complaints process. The team also urged government to transform ZNBC into a public service broadcaster with full editorial independence, suggesting that the campaigns were “marred by systematic bias in state media, which failed to provide fair and equitable coverage.” The observers also singled the need to strengthen the Electoral Commission of Zambia. “The development of a permanent independent structure of the ECZ at regional level should be implemented, as well as temporary independent structure at constituency levels during the immediate period of elections.” The report further recommends that all locations where voters cast ballots should be called “polling stations” duly gazetted and identified by a unique code with results individually posted and published by ECZ. “The ECZ should publish individual polling station results for all elections in a timely manner,” the report emphasizes. “Scanned polling station results forms could also be published to further build [public] confidence.” The EU EOM was in country between 29 June and 12 September following invitations from Government and the ECZ to ensure compliance with Zambia’s national, regional and international commitments for elections. The mission included a total of 124 observers from all 28 EU member states as well as Norway and Canada, making it the largest international observation mission for the 2016 elections. The election was also monitored by representatives of the African Union, SADC, and the Carter Centre.