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Saturday, 22 August 2009

Case for an Electoral Complaints Authority (Guest Blog)

I wish to request all the participants in the plenary session of the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) to seriously consider the prospect of making a recommendation for the establishment of an “Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia”, to be included among the commissions or institutions recommended in the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) Draft Constitution.

The “Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia” should assume the functions of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) stipulated in Clauses 6 through 8 of Article 112 of the Draft Constitution. These functions could be designated as a separate Article, and could be amended and paraphrased as follows:

(1) The “Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia” shall consider and determine all issues and matters of malpractices relating to the ECZ and/or its officers occurring before, during and after elections or referenda.

(2) It shall also determine all electoral disputes and issues of malpractices, occurring before or during an election, within twenty-four hours of receiving a complaint with regard to the dispute or malpractice and shall have the discretion to make an order –

(a) Prohibiting a person or political party from doing any act proscribed by or under an Act of Parliament;

(b) Excluding a person or any agent of a person or any candidate or agent of a political party from entering a polling station;

(c) Reducing or increasing the number of votes cast in favor of a candidate after a recount;

(d) Disqualifying the candidature of any person;

(e) That the votes cast at a particular polling station do not tally in whole or in part;

(f) For filing a complaint and making a report to a court or tribunal handling any electoral petition; or

(g) Cancelling an election or election result and calling a fresh election, where the electoral mal-practice is of a nature that would affect the final electoral results.

(3) A decision of the “Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia” on any matter referred to in Clause (2) shall be final only for purposes of proceeding with the elections.

(4) Any complaints connected to an election that shall be raised after an election shall be dealt with under an election petition by an electoral tribunal.

Articles 113 through 116 of the Mung’omba Draft Constitution could be amended to incorporate the “Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia”, except Article 113(3)(b), which, for the purposes of the suggested Authority, could read as follows: “forwarding the names of the short-listed candidates for appointment to a “Committee on Elections” (which would need to be created to expand the number of Portfolio Committees of Parliament) for ratification.

So, in making the appointments of the members of the ECZ, the Appointments Committee (recommended by the CRC) shall forward the names of short-listed candidates for appointment to the President for ratification or confirmation. On the other hand, the Appointments Committee shall forward the names of short-listed candidates for appointment to the “Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia” to a “Committee on Elections” for ratification or confirmation.

There is a need for a separate governmental watchdog designed to monitor the activities of officers of the ECZ, and the conduct of elections in the country. This will hopefully lessen the vulnerability of the ECZ and the electoral process to the influences, manipulation and/or machinations of unscrupulous politicians and political parties.

Henry Kyambalesa
(Guest Blogger / Agenda for Change)

1 comment:

  1. Thats a good idea. To inhace it we need
    Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT)

    PVT is an exercise attempted to mirror the official count of all polling stations. PVT is an election observation methodology that is employed for independent verification (or challenge) of election results. It involves observation of the voting and counting of ballots at the polling stations, collection of official polling station results and independent tabulation (totaling or summation) of these results, parallel to election authorities. If the PVT is performed on statistical sample of the polling stations, it is called Quick Count.

    In Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections, with the help of the then President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, a concession was arrived at to have PVT. Results at individual polling stations were displayed on the outside of the polling stations. MDC supporters took pictures, often with camera phones, and sent these to a central location (in Johannesburg), where the results were tabulated. PVT showed that Tsvangirai had polled 50.3% of the vote. However the official result still showed Mr Tsvangirai securing the majority vote at 48.6% of the votes thus forcing a runoff election which Mr. Tsvangirai refused to participate and he argued that he had won the election with a 50 plus 1.

    Back home in Zambia, during 2008 Presidential By-elections, PVT was held spearhead by FODEP with the help of an American organization in which all the stake holders such as the relevant Zambian NGOs, opposition parties and ruling party worked together. During the counting at the Totaling Center, the official results by ECZ was showing that Sata was leading as most results from the rural areas had not yet come in. PF carders were excited and but there was panic in the MMD. However PVT results were showing that MMD and PF candidates were at par which lead to the then FODEP president Stanley Mhango to announce to the nation that the election at the moment then with most of the results in was a “close tie” and could go either way.

    Remember one of the reasons why RB fired Mulongoti. It had to do with PVT. RB must have liked the results of PVT which were favorable. He didn’t like Mike Mulongoti’s close friend Chitala Mbita’s advice that RB should prematurely announce to the nation that he had conceded defeat.

    Its unfortunate that some elements within MMD think that PVT can cause anarchy in the management of the elections. What I don’t understand is why these people in MMD are jittery about PVT when in actual fact PVT proved to have worked well for RB as I have shown above. By the why, why condemn the Americans for “meddling” in our affairs when in actual fact the perceived “meddling” validated ECZ final results?

    Since most rigging happens during transporting results or ballot boxes to the totaling center, the parallel vote tabulation (PVT) can play a significant role in preventing outright electoral fraud and goes a long way even to help to ascertain the credibility of the elections and not just underpinning prevention of fraud.

    Even if we risk the disadvantage that if there is no consensus among stakeholders, PVT would become a source of conflict, the courts are there to adjudicate for how else we will know the validity of an election results and on what basis can they be challenged?


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