Prepare for elections, Zambian opposition told

Chief government spokesperson, Vernon Mwaanga, was reacting to suggestions by the opposition and non-governmental organisations that the election date be announced soon to enable players prepare to adequately. Mwaanga, who declined to state the specific date when the elections could be held, said the president had the prerogative under the constitution to announce the election date after assessing the situation. He dispelled fears of potential rigging of the elections explaining that measures had been put in place to ensure the elections were free and fair. Southern African Centre for Conflict Resolution and Disputes (SACCORD), Executive Director, Lee Habasonda, said the provision under the Electoral Act allowing the president to announce the date of elections at his discretion was a threat to democracy because players were caught unaware. “It’s not in order for the election date to come like a thief in the night and we don’t want people to be taken unaware. People should be informed in good time to allow them campaign and use their resources prudently,” he said. He said announcing the election date early would also help electoral players to access and evaluate the 2006 Electoral bill when it becomes law. And President Levy Mwanawasa, in a speech read for him on May 19 during an anti-corruption sensitisation workshop in Lusaka, warned against corruption during the 2006 polls noting that such resources were wasted at the expense of needy areas. “Its frustration that has frustrated plans to build enough decent shelter for our people, corruption has taken away what we need in order to have decent lives. The same corruption has robbed the country of her sanity,” he said. Foundation for Democratic Process (Fodep) national secretary, Stanley Mhango, said the government had persistently rejected proposals from other interest groups to review the Electoral Bill of 2006 and increase the number of eligible voters to more than 5 million to broaden participation. “We are concerned at the government’s closed approach to the views of the civil society over concerns in the electoral process. We believe our input is very important in making the 2006 elections free and fair,” he said. He regretted that proposals urging the government to amend the constitution to provide for cabinet being appointed outside parliament and the vice president being a running mate to an aspiring presidential candidate were discarded by the government. The proposals were made during a recent meeting organised by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ). The electoral agency has raised about US$10 million for among other things, the provision of transparent ballot boxes and sensitisation programmes ahead of the elections. Mwaanga supports the use of transparent ballot boxes during elections adding that the fact that ballot papers would be counted at respective polling centres was guarantee of credible elections this year. Recently, faith based organisations, political players and the civil society had proposed to the government to make the 2006 Electoral Bill inclusive of all concerns. They were demanding that the constitution should make it mandatory for a winning president to garner 50+1 percent majority vote, among others, but, the proposals were deferred to a later date by the government.

May 2006
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