Holding 2011 polls under current constitution will be dangerous

By Simon Kabanda

Does the current electoral system conform to the multi-party dispensation that we have embraced? Does the electoral process give us the desired product? Why has the nation failed to come up with a comprehensive and acceptable Electoral Act?

An attempt at comprehensive electoral reforms by government was made when the Electoral Reform Technical Committee (ERTC) was formed in 2003. It was envisaged that the 2006 general elections would be held under a new and comprehensive Electoral Act. Unfortunately, the 2006 Electoral Act fell below reflecting the desired electoral laws. To date the situation has remained the same.

Government is not willing to go through the 2011 elections under a new constitution. The ruling party wants to keep on holding onto power, and thus wants to take advantage of the current porous constitution. Government leaders know that the absence of fair electoral laws gives them an opportunity to keep staying in power even when it is clear that the people of Zambia are sick and tired of the current bad governance.

Article 34(9) of the Constitution of Zambia provides thatA person elected as President under this Article shall be sworn in and assume office immediately but not later than twenty-four hours from the time of declaring the election.”

If we do not have a new constitution before the 2011 elections then the elections will not be conducted properly, and the results may not be acceptable. This is because when it is discovered during counting of votes in Lusaka that the figures presented from constituencies are different from the announced figures, there is no provision to immediately recount to verify the figures. Verification is only allowed to be done after the winner has been declared and sworn in. Then the election can be petitioned in the High Court, and it will be up to the court to decide whether there should be a recount or not.

Has government been willing to come up with a comprehensive Electoral Act? Will the constitution-making process be finalized in time to come up with a new Electoral Act before the 2011 elections?

Since government is not willing to go through the 2011 elections under a new constitution, there is need to mount pressure so that some provisions in the constitution can be amended before the presidential election takes place. The provision that does not allow for verification before the winner is declared and sworn in should be amended so that when there is contention that the announced votes in Lusaka do not reflect the correct results that have come from the constituencies, recounting and verification should be allowed there and then. If the provision in the current constitution is not amended then we shall again subject ourselves to the same problems we had in 2001, 2006 and 2008 presidential elections.

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