Lusaka, Zambia: On 13 August 2016, the Head of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to the 2016 General Elections in the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency, Oldemiro Júlio Marques Baloi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Mozambique released the Mission's Preliminary Statement, at a press event held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia. The elections and referendum on the Bill of Rights took place on 11 August 2016.
The SEOM also hosted eight International Election Observation Missions to release their independent Preliminary Statements at the same venue. These included the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Election Observation Mission headed by His Excellency, Ambassador Ashraf Rashed, the African Union Election (AU) Observation Mission headed by His Excellency, Goodluck Jonathan, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Commonwealth Observer Group led by His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) Mission headed by His Excellency, Cassam Uteem, former President of the Republic of Mauritius.
Other Missions presenting interim statements included the Carter Centre headed by Her Excellency Ms Sylvie Kinigi, former Prime Minister of Burundi, the SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) Election Observation Mission headed by the Honourable Advocate Taska R. Mbogo, the Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC Countries (ECF SADC) led by Ambassador Omar Ramadhan Mapuri, and the International Conference on the Great Lakes (ICGLR) Election Observation Mission, led by Senator Dr. Wilfred Gisuka Machage.
The press event was attended by among others, Heads and representatives of Diplomatic Missions accredited to the Republic of Zambia representatives of political parties, faith-based groups, members of civil society, and the media.
In his presentation, the Head of the SEOM Mission observed that the amended Constitution of Zambia (2016), had brought a number of changes to the legal framework governing elections in the country, including inter alia, the establishment and management of a Political Parties' Fund, the introduction of the Single Member Majoritarian system, and the requirement that candidates for president, parliament, mayor and council possess a Grade 12 Certificate. He also outlined some of the key SEOM observations which ranged from addressing the preparedness of the Electoral Commission of Zambia to hold the elections, women's participation, to matters on the referendum.
Additionally, the Honourable Minister also outlined SEOM's recommendations to electoral stakeholders. Among others, these included the need for effective application of the Electoral Code of Conduct in its totality; promotion of youth leadership programmes at political party and community levels; increase in participation of women at party levels; and the need for media access to all political parties during elections.
In his conclusion the Head of the SEOM, noted that despite reports of isolated acts of violence during the pre-election phase, our observations are that the country has generally remained peaceful. Therefore, SEOM is also of the view that the ECZ has generally made commendable efforts to render the management of key aspects of the electoral process credible, free and transparent.
Finally the Honourable Minister stressed that the Mission would maintain a team of electoral experts on the ground to observe the post-election phase and encouraged all political parties to respect the will of the people of Zambia. A final report of Zambia's General Elections shall be completed and issued within 30 days after the close of poll. The report shall be directed to the Member State holding elections and to the Electoral Management Body (EMB).