ZIMBABWEAN civil society organisations which observed Zambia’s Tuesday presidential by-election have commended that country’s electoral body for conducting peaceful and transparent polls.
Election Resource Centre (ERC) director Tawanda Chimhini yesterday commended the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) for running the polls professionally, despite hitches caused by heavy downpours.
He said save for the areas which failed to vote on Tuesday because of heavy rains, there were no major challenges with 97 % of polling stations receiving voting materials and opening on time.
“There was extensive voter education through the media including electronic billboards. The ECZ took a deliberate effort to avail information to the electorate, political parties and other stakeholders,” Chimhini said.
He said unlike in Zimbabwe, the voters’ rolls were readily available to Zambian political parties including local, regional and international observers who did not find it difficult to be accredited by the ECZ.
Chimhini said the biometric voters’ roll, which had pictures of all the voters, raised confidence on the integrity and credibility of the voting process.
“When a voter comes to a polling station, an official announces to everyone who the person is, the ID number and page on the voters’ roll,” he said.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director Macdonald Lewanika added: “The ECZ has set a good example on how to conduct elections in a transparent manner. Information was readily made available including challenges which were being faced, the commission engaged with media and other stakeholders and allowed everyone who wanted to observe the elections to do that at no cost at all. But the real test will come on results management.”
Voting has been extended at 300 polling stations in areas where heavy rains prevented polling from opening in the elections caused by the death of President Michael Sata last year.
It was expected to be a close contest between the ruling Patriotic Front leader Edgar Lungu and businessman Hakainde Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND).
Hichilema yesterday afternoon reportedly stormed the Mulungushi International Conference Centre, the national results centre, demanding the ECZ to halt announcing the results on national television claiming voting irregularities.
Earlier, UPND party representatives almost caused commotion at the centre when they demanded the immediate release of the election results claiming their party had won 51% of the vote.
The ECZ has since suspended announcement of results until voting ends in areas affected by rains.