1 January 2002

ZAMBIA: EU and US observers acknowledge polls irregularities

Concerns raised by civil society and observers in the just ended elections should be addressed before any inauguration of a president, European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) in Zambia has advised. Releasing the second interim report on the 2001 presidential and general elections at a press briefing in Lusaka on Dec 31, EUEOM chief Observer Michael Meadowcroft said the electoral process, particularly in many areas on polling day, was badly planned and poorly managed at the national level.

"We have set out evidence of many serious shortcomings of this election before, during and after polling day," Meadowcroft said. "We continue actively to observe the national tabulation process in detail." Meadowcroft said the delays and the slowness of the voting process which lasted for about three days in some areas was avoidable and inexcusable.

Meadowcroft said announcement of December 27, 2001 by President Chiluba as an election day and failure by government to declare it a holiday created considerable inconvenience for voters. He said during the weeks preceding the election date, district administrators had continued to be prominent in the campaigning activities of the ruling party despite the court ruling that they were not permitted to engage in political activities because they were civil servants. Meadowcroft said the State owned media had also flouted electoral regulations by reporting in favour of MMD, before, during and after the election.

"It is never easy to determine the effect of such a consistently unlevelled playing field, but its very existence, and the belief in its efficacy on the part of those promoting it, undermines the concept of a free and fair election," said Meadowcroft.

Similar concerns were expressed by a speaker of the Carter Centre's election observer team in Lusaka, David Carroll. "We have enough reports of irregularities for there to be cause for concern, but it is still too early to make a definitive statement on the fairness of the election,” he said.

All opposition parties have accused the authorities of vote-rigging, amid protest over the slow vote count after presidential, parliamentary and local elections last thursday. In a joint letter six candidates alleged that ballot boxes had been stuffed, and that new ballots had arrived after counting had been completed in a bid by the MMD to retain power.

Anderson Mazoka, the opposition United Party for National Development's presidential candidate, declared himself president over the weekend. With the results of 93 of the 150 constituencies announced, Mazoka on December 30 led by 9,000 votes, but a million ballots were still uncounted, the regional feature service SARDC reported.

"Given concerns about transparency in the tabulation process,” the Carter Centre summarized, “we believe all sides should strive to provide for maximum transparency in the post-election period; particularly in the time remaining before the declaration of the final presidential results by the Chief Justice. Every opportunity should be pursued to check vote tabulations from alternate sources. To this end, the ECZ needs to ensure timely access to official results at all levels so these can be cross-checked against the poll results and tabulation results collected by party agents and observers."

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda has meanwhile made an emotional appeal to all Zambian citizens to remain calm and peaceful and not to let the chaotic political situation deteriorate into violence. (The Post, IRIN)

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