HOLDING FREE, FAIR, TRANSPARENT ELECTIONS, ENHANCES DEMOCRACY
BY DR VERNON J MWAANGA
We live in a global village in our one world. What happens in one country, attracts attention everywhere. The American Charge d’Affaires David Young, has rightly raised the alarm about the unfairness of the current election campaigns, where the ruling PF government candidates and party operatives are being allowed to campaign freely in some parts of the country, while opposition candidates are being prevented from campaigning freely. How can such an unfair campaign environment produce a fair election outcome ? My answer is NO.
The public media, continues to display outright bias in favour of the ruling party. Opposition candidates continue to be denied equal access as required by the UN, AU and SADC guideline. The opposition get publicity mainly, only when there is something negative to report about them. It is beyond dispute, that the forthcoming elections we are holding on 12th August, will be held in a COVID 19 pandemic, where the COVID protocols must apply to all political parties in equal measure. A number of countries have held elections during this pandemic era, by affording all the participating political parties equal and fair access to the media, particularly the public media. They have been able to hold public meetings, where social distancing and wearing of masks was largely observed.
The people of Zambia, have a right to know what all the political parties are offering them, to enable them make informed choices on voting day. The absence of even and fair access to the public media, shrinks the democratic window of free, fair, transparent and democratic elections. Election results must truly, fairly and genuinely reflect the wishes of the people. Elections are not a single event. They are a process, which must be fair and transparent at all stages. Already, there are issues relating to how National Registration Cards and Voter Registration were handled in some areas. A close examination of Provincial, District and Constituency voter numbers, clearly shows that in some areas, the number of voters, is lower than the number of voters, who were registered in 2016. The Electoral Commission of Zambia, had issued estimates of capturing over 9 million voters during the voter registration exercise, the number of young people who have become eligible to vote since 2016. They only captured 7 million voters.
Regrettably, this ECZ target became a bridge too far and no logical explanation was offered.
Zambia is going through unbearable economic hardships . Price of commodities , including those citizens require merely to survive are going up. There is a shortage of drugs in most government hospitals and clinics. The kwacha is in free fall against other currencies. The public debt situation has reached unbearable levels. Unemployment on the rise, particularly among young people. The focus for economic growth for 2021 is less than cheerful. It is beyond dispute that the COVID pandemic, has had a negative impact on economic growth world wide, it is also a fact that countries which manage their economies better, will recover more quickly. These are all issues which have a direct bearing on the lives of the people of Zambia .
They have a right to know what solutions all the participating political parties are going to solve these issues which have a direct bearing on their daily lives. In the prevailing campaign atmosphere, it is impossible for opposition political parties, to put their messages directly to the people. In the remaining four weeks of the campaigns before election day, let the Electoral Commission of Zambia, ensure that the campaign process is free and fair for all the partipating political parties. They should also take a much stronger stance against violent political parties; ensure fair and equitable access to the public media; ensure that officials of political parties who practice or utter tribal and hate speeches are banned from campaigning; make sure that every part of the election process is observed at all stages, including the tallying process, which is a contentious issue, bearing in mind what happened in Lundazi and other areas in 2016. Our country cannot and should not have another disputed election. Disputed elections are a source of tension and even conflict in many countries of the world , which our country can do without. Let elections not divide us and cause hatred . Elections come and go,but we must always live together as brothers and sisters by upholding the spirit of ONE ZAMBIA, ONE NATION .