Parallel votes tabulation is good for Zambia

By Hellen Muzyamba

Trust is both a psychological and logical act. Psychologically, it is where you expose your vulnerabilities to people, all the while believing that they will not take advantage of your sincerity.

Rationally or logically, it is where you have weighed both your negative and positive outcomes,  analysing what you hope to get later based on hard performance data, and concluded that the subject in question will behave in a predictable manner. We feel trust.

Emotions associated with trust include companionship, friendship, love, agreement, relaxation, comfort.Unfortunately, if it was not clear before, it is now clear that the Electoral Commission of Zambia, ECZ, does not invoke many of the emotions associated with trust.Increasing calls for a Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) system during this year’s tripartite elections by some Civil Society Organisations, opposition political parties and ordinary citizens are a clear indication of mistrust in the ECZ and, to some extent, the entire electoral process.

While it is apparent that the proponents of a PVT system want it because they are convinced that if left alone, the Rupiah Banda administration will exploit its incumbency to perpetuate the MMD’s stay in power, those opposed to the system are failing to adequately provide an assurance that the election results will not be altered.According to Wikipedia, the PVT is an election observation methodology that is employed for independent verification (or challenge) of election results.

It involves observation of the voting and counting of ballots at the polling stations, collection of official polling station results and independent tabulation of these results, parallel to election authorities. If the PVT is performed on statistical sample of the polling stations, it is called Quick CountBack in 1990, the long period of one-party rule under the United National Independence Party (UNIP) had planted distrust and at that point, the MMD made independent election observing a condition for its electoral participation, and international donors let it be known that they were willing to support an observation effort.

Though it did not happen overnight, Dr Kenneth Kaunda obliged to the demands. For the then Organisation Of African Union (OAU), the Zambian elections marked the organization’s first expedition into election observation in a sovereign African country, as it sent a representative to participate in a pre-election mission led by U.S President Jimmy Carter to observe the elections.

By far the largest international presence was the Zambia Voting Observation Team (Z-Vote) assembled jointly by the Carter Center and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI). Z-Vote conducted two parallel programmes to support electoral fairness in Zambia: a comprehensive international observation presence and a scheme of training and advice for domestic election monitors.Back then, two distinct groups existed: initially, the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT) and, later on, the Zambia Elections Monitoring Coordinating Committee (ZEMCC) which comprised the Christian Churches Monitoring Group, the Law Association of Zambia, the National Women’s Lobby Group, the Press Association of Zambia, the University of Zambia Students’ Union and the NGO Coordinating Committee. The church group was itself a coalition of the country’s three leading denominations: the Zambia Episcopal Conference, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia and the Christian Council of Zambia.

On the day of elections, both international observers and domestic monitors visited polling stations, monitored counting centres and conducted a Parallel Vote Tabulation, PVT.

According to documented evidence, at some point when it became clear that domestic monitoring groups would not be organized in time to ensure that vote counting would be done transparently, Z-Vote took the initiative to have a PVT, making Zambia’s election the first occasion that a private group of international observers independently conducted such a count.

The PVT was designed with the help of Zambian demographers and statisticians to produce a representative sample of actual results from 350 polling sites, representing about 10 per cent of eligible voters.  By election night, ZEMCC volunteers had fanned out across the country in order to transmit results from the selected sites. By the morning of Friday 1 November when Zambian television newscasters were announcing results from the first two reporting constituencies, the PVT headquarters in Lusaka had already received results from 12 per cent of its sample.

Over the years, issues of mistrust have continued. In 1996, the main controversy was around voter registration, with the register being prepared by an Israeli computer company, Nikuv.Skipping the elections in between and turning to the most recently held presidential election in 2008, the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) conducted a PVT and even though its results tallied with the ECZ, there were concerns that combining the counting of multiple polling streams reduced the transparency of the process. In a statement released on November 1, 2008, before the ECZ officially announced the poll results, FODEP noted that of polling districts with multiple streams, 80 percent counted votes in a single counting exercise, despite assurances by then director of the ECZ that he would direct that counting be done individually at each stream. Given the past, therefore, it is misleading for President Rupiah Banda to say that a PVT is alien to Zambia. Whether the system is a recipe for post election anarchy is, perhaps, the greater issue of debate.As the former president of FODEP, Stanley Mhango was quoted as saying in the Zambia Daily Mail recently, PVT would be acceptable if conducted by people with high integrity, with a proven record, and well versed in election monitoring.A great deal is at stake in election-observing in Africa because citizens and international donors alike increasingly grant legitimacy—and economic assistance—to African governments on the basis of whether they are constituted democratically.

Thus, it is important to analyse how election observation can be made as available, impartial and accurate as possible.One of the key stakeholders in this process is of course the ECZ, as they are the ones who should provide the information necessary to carry out a successful PVT, such as a list of all polling stations and information about how the official count is carried out. It is therefore very useful if a good working relationship exists early on in the process through open channels of communication. As a prerequisite, of the key things that the organisation carrying out the PVT needs to respect is the fact that the ECZ  is the only source of official results after the election, and that any other reports of results should not be treated as official.Since NDI was involved in the 1991 PVT and in 2008, funded FODEP for the same but advanced similar exercise, would it be wrong to assume that the inertia on the part of government to give room for the exercise is due to the supposed inclusion, this time around of the Press Freedom Committee of The Post (PFC), whom it views as a hostile watchdog, working against the government? Would the concerns be the same if again say, the Forum for Leadership Search or the African Methodist Episcopal Church sourced funding to do the same? The more government officials pronounce their dislike for the PVT exercise, the more suspicious the MMD becomes.

Ivory Coast, Kenya and Zimbabwe are not perfect examples as the system has not only been used in Zambia and not resulted in post-election anarchy but has been used in Ghana and most recently Uganda without incidence.


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    PVT is an exercise attempted to mirror the official count of all polling stations. PVT is an election observation methodology that is employed for independent verification (or challenge) of election results. It involves observation of the voting and counting of ballots at the polling stations, collection of official polling station results and independent tabulation (totaling or summation) of these results, parallel to election authorities. If the PVT is performed on statistical sample of the polling stations, it is called Quick Count.

    In Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections, with the help of the then President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, a concession was arrived at to have PVT. Results at individual polling stations were displayed on the outside of the polling stations. MDC supporters took pictures, often with camera phones, and sent these to a central location (in Johannesburg), where the results were tabulated. PVT showed that Tsvangirai had polled 50.3% of the vote. However the official result still showed Mr Tsvangirai securing the majority vote at 48.6% of the votes thus forcing a runoff election which Mr. Tsvangirai refused to participate and he argued that he had won the election with a 50 plus 1.

    Back home in Zambia, during 2008 Presidential By-elections, PVT was held spearhead by FODEP with the help of an American organization in which all the stake holders such as the relevant Zambian NGOs, opposition parties and ruling party worked together. During the counting at the Totaling Center, the official results by ECZ was showing that Sata was leading as most results from the rural areas had not yet come in. PF carders were excited and but there was panic in the MMD. However PVT results were showing that MMD and PF candidates were at par which lead to the then FODEP president Stanley Mhango to announce to the nation that the election at the moment then with most of the results in was a “close tie” and could go either way.

    Remember one of the reasons why RB fired Mulongoti. It had to do with PVT. RB must have liked the results of PVT which were favorable. He didn’t like Mike Mulongoti’s close friend Chitala Mbita’s advice that RB should prematurely announce to the nation that he had conceded defeat.

    Its unfortunate that some elements within MMD think that PVT can cause anarchy in the management of the elections. What I don’t understand is why these people in MMD are jittery about PVT when in actual fact PVT proved to have worked well for RB as I have shown above. By the way, why condemn the Americans for “meddling” in our affairs when in actual fact the perceived “meddling” validated ECZ final results?

    Since most rigging happens during transporting results or ballot boxes to the totaling center, the parallel vote tabulation (PVT) can play a significant role in preventing outright electoral fraud and goes a long way even to help to ascertain the credibility of the elections and not just underpinning prevention of fraud.

    Even if we risk the disadvantage that if there is no consensus among stakeholders, PVT would become a source of conflict, the courts are there to adjudicate for how else we will know the validity of an election results and on what basis can they be challenged?

    NOTE: During the writing of this note RB’s official position on PVT wasn’t known. But yesterday 15th March, 2011, during inauguration of the new chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) justice Ireen Chirwa Mambilimanew chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) justice Ireen Chirwa Mambilima, he warned advocates of the parallel vote tabulations (PVT) that anyone that will compute and tabulate results of the forthcoming tripartite elections will be committing a criminal offence Why does RB invite international election observers to monitor an election and deny them PVT which is a great system for observing an election? Doesn’t it defeat the whole purpose of inviting the election observers/monitors? This is tantamount to tying someone’s hands yet subjecting them to a fight in a boxing ring. I can’t invite you to a meal and refuse you to open your mouth when eating.

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    MM Chabala 7 years

    Dear Hellen Muzyamba, STOP propagaying concepts that you least understand. Grow up and stop misleading the people of Zambia.

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    Wantanshi 7 years

    Unless you are completely stupid it’s clear the powers are scared they will lose if elections are transparent. The very fact they are fighting against efforts at transparency indicates dishonest on their part. 

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    Dirty money from donors.We dont want anarcy in our peaceful nation.

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    If elections had not been rigged the last 3 times thenn people wouldnt be even talking about PVT. People are just asking for a fair election. We cant go back and start fighting for what we fough in 1991 again, these MMD havwe erased the democracy they once stood for.

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    Thundiwe Banba 7 years

    So there you have it. Mwe fikopo this is your last chance to grasp the PVT concept. 

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    Supa Ken 7 years


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    job kassman 7 years

    we need to be mindful before we write articals.

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    chilubi islands 7 years

    ptv is just a system to monitor the elections or rather counter check the electral system. it doesn’t diminish the popularity of any political party. anarchy or no anarchy we want it this year to prove the cry for the people who i believe they have no faith in ECZ. people who are against PVT know very well where they stand and they are afraid of loosing. we dont want fake polling stations being created,altered figures,dead people casting the votes,polling assistant & observers beaten,missing ballot boxes

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    Chiko 7 years

    ‘vory Coast, Kenya and Zimbabwe are not perfect examples as the system has not only been used in Zambia and not resulted in post-election anarchy but has been used in Ghana and most recently Uganda without incidence’ are you normal?