RESPONSES TO VARIOUS STAKEHOLDERS’ VIEWS
The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has noted various concerns raised by a wide range of stakeholders and would like to take this opportunity to address them as follows;
1. Conduct of campaigns and voting in the wake of COVID-19
SI No. 22 of 2020 provides the Legal Framework for the Commission to conduct elections in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic as all public gatherings are subject to Public Health Regulations. These regulations are not administered by the Electoral Commission of Zambia and therefore, the only requirement is that once campaigns are authorised, all stakeholders must adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines. Further to this, the Commission has developed guidelines to enhance the adherence of the health guidelines which encourages political parties and other stakeholders to use appropriate campaign strategies such as mobile public address system, distribution of flyers and other political party materials with minimal or no contact with a crowd.
For polls, the Commission will adhere to the required public health guidelines such as sanitising, wearing of face masks and physical distancing as the electorate cast their votes.
2. Restrictions on the number of international observers accredited to observe the 2021 general election
The accreditation of election observers is a process that aims to ensure transparency and accountability of the electoral process. Interested International observers follow the application procedure which is channelled
through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for onward recommendation for accreditation to the Commission. On the other hand Public Health Regulations and in this regard COVID-19 guidelines are a preserve of the Ministry of Health. Therefore, the Commission will be guided by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health respectively on how to proceed with accreditation of international observers.
The Commission is aware of the risk associated with international travel in the spread of COVID-19 and the concerns raised by stakeholders are valid and the relevant institutions working with the Commission would need to ensure that relevant measures are put in place should the need arise for accrediting international observers.
Alternatively, international agencies that have presence in the country and are interested in observing the elections can utilise local staff in the event that travel restrictions are imposed.
3. Calls for Independent audit of the Voters Register
The management of election is the sole mandate of the Electoral Commission of Zambia which includes the registration of voters. Where need be, an audit of the register can be conducted as was the case in 2016 led by the Commission in a transparent manner that takes into account the concerns of the stakeholders. The Commission will this time around not conduct an audit of the register given that this will be a new register of voters which will address most of the concerns that stakeholders may have. Stakeholders wishing to conduct an independent audit of the register can take advantage of the verification of voter details once the Commission opens up the verification and physical inspection of the Voters Register to the public. The Electoral Process Act, 2016 makes provision for inspection and raising of objections of the provisional register of voters.
4. Re-opening of the voter registration exercise
The Commission will not reopen the voter registration exercise which came to an end on 20th December 2020. The Commission is guided by an electoral calendar that details the sequence of events in the run up to the general election. This is done in order to provide order, transparency and accountability in the execution of its function. The registration exercise ran for a period of 38 days inclusive of a four-day extension. In this period, the Commission registered a provisional total number of 7,020,749 voters, representing a record 83% of the projected number of eligible voters.
The Commission is committed to continuously engage all stakeholders including political parties, Civil Society and Faith-based Organisations among others as we approach the 2021 General Elections.
The Commission will further endeavour to engage all stakeholder prior to main activities such as inspection of the Provisional Voters Register, Nominations and the General Elections among others.
Corporate Affairs Manager
For/The Chief Electoral Officer
ELECTORAL COMMISION OF ZAMBIA