The SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to the Presidential By-Elections in the Republic of Zambia has declared the elections to have been peaceful, transparent, credible, free, and fair, thus reflecting the will of the people of Zambia in accordance with the National Laws and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
This is contained in the statement released today by Honourable Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Chairperson of the SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, and Head of the SADC Electoral Observer Mission to the Elections in the Republic of Zambia; accompanied by H.E. Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, SADC Executive Secretary; and Members of the SADC Troika.
The declaration is based on SEOM observations throughout the electoral process. SEOM observed that prior to the election; the political atmosphere was generally peaceful. However, the SEOM noted that there was inter-party intolerance and suspicion which resulted in sporadic incidents of violence. In some instances, gatherings and rallies of some political parties were disrupted by the members of their competing parties during the campaign period.
The SEOM noted that the legislative frameworks guiding the elections included amongst others, the Electoral Code of Conduct which stipulated the duties and responsibilities of stakeholders to the elections, including the public and private media. The Mission observed that there was an attempt by the public and private media to comply with the Electoral Code of Conduct in that respect. The SEOM further noted that campaigning ended at 18:00 hours on 19 January 2015, and that no campaigning took place on the day of the election.
On the Election Day, the SEOM observed that polling stations opened on time, and the opening procedures were followed in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral law; the voting process generally went smoothly. The SEOM observed that there was no violence reported by its observers during voting. The SEOM also noted that the presence of the police contributed to the peaceful atmosphere during the entire voting process; party agents and monitors were present at the opening at all polling stations observed; the layout of the polling stations promoted easy flow of voting, so that throughout the process, voting was orderly; voters were unable to vote without producing their voters card; most polling stations closed at 18h00 as provided for in the Electoral law. Voters who were still in queues at the formal closing of the polling stations could cast their vote; counting at most polling stations started immediately after the closing of the polling stations. The prescribed counting procedures were adhered to by the Counting Assistants; ballot boxes were sealed in the presence of party agents, observers and monitors; heavy rains presented logistical and administrative challenges, and hampered the voting process.
SEOM noted some best practices in the electoral process in the Republic of Zambia. These included: Freedom of association, expression and opinion during the electoral campaigns; The holding of public presidential debates between political party candidates facilitated by radio and television stations; Improved media coverage for all political parties; and Electronic transmission of election results.
In order to further improve the quality of the electoral process in the Republic of Zambia, the SEOM has recommended the following to the Zambian Government and other relevant stakeholders: A concerted effort to encourage women to participate in the political processes of the nation as candidates; Maintenance of an updated voters Roll and; Adequate civic and voter education by the ECZ to encourage the youth and women to participate in elections.
The SEOM has also urged and appealed to all Candidates and their political parties, and other stakeholders, to respect the will of the people and to uphold the laws of the Republic of Zambia by accepting the outcome of the election as and when announced by the constitutionally mandated body – the Electoral Commission of Zambia. Any challenge to the election results should be done in accordance with the laws of the country.