Zambian elections go electronic

The electorate will choose the president of the republic, members of parliament and city councillors.

The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has introduced an electronic system in which voter details will be loaded onto a database making it less prone to manipulation in the verification of voters’ identification.

Previous polls have been conducted using national identification documents.

The new system put in place by the ECZ uses “biometrics”, that is, fingerprints, palm prints or iris scans to provide an accurate identification and verification of a voter.

The process of scanning and loading information on aspiring candidates onto the database is already being done by the ECZ.

Most of the work was done in advance when eligible voters had their right thumb prints scanned.

The ECZ is also producing Geographical Information System (GIS) maps for all constituencies. GIS is a system of creating, storing, analysing and managing spatial data and associated attributes.

Mpundu Mfula, information technology deputy director at ECZ, said biometrics was being used in Zambia to add value to the electoral process.

Mfula said the old method applied during the 2001 elections of using an identity document to verify the identity of a voter could not catch up with people who had two national registration cards as they could use both to vote at different polling stations.

The new security measures announced on 22 August by the Inspector-General of Zambia Police, Ephraim Mateyo, will see unarmed police officers guarding the polling stations.

“The move will ensure that members of the public will vote without any intimidation,” said Mateyo.

Government wants voters to mingle with law enforcement agents in a friendly environment during the elections.

Police will also not be allowed to take firearms to their houses.

“I will not allow firearms in the townships or camps because that has, in some cases, led to killings of girlfriends or wives following misunderstandings and this is the reason why I am saying firearms should be kept in the armoury,” Mateyo said.

The country has already purchased translucent ballot boxes for all the 150 constituencies.

Officers-in-charge of police stations will have to authorise applications for public rallies by political parties.

Previously, only provincial commanding officers were allowed to authorise political processions in consultation with the Inspector-General of Police.

Four opposition leaders have filed nominations to challenge President Levy Mwanawasa, who is seeking a second tenure of office after assuming power after the 2001 elections.

Eleven candidates contested the 2001 presidential elections but most have retired while others have formed alliances to try to avoid splitting the vote.

Zambia’s preparations for the polls this year have been peaceful in comparison with the 2001 pre-election period, during sporadic violence reigned.

The period for filing nomination papers, from 11-14 August, was also free from violence.

Pledging to apply the law fairly, Mateyo said the police was prepared to provide adequate security for voters, candidates and election monitors.

A recent Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) urged Zambians to ensure that the elections are peaceful in the interests of sustaining the existing peace and stability in the region.

SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Augusto Salom’o said the government should ensure that elections are peaceful and the parties involved should accept the results.

Dr Salom’o, speaking at the official opening of the summit, expressed SADC determination to attain and sustain peace and security in the entire region. ‘

September 2006
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