Our hands are tied over 90 day constitutional need for by elections-ECZ

Keita wins Mali election after opponent concedes

The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) says its hands are tied over the 90 day constitutional requirement in which to hold a by election for constituencies that have lost representation especially through nullifications.

 ECZ Senior Public Relations Officer Sylvia Bwalya said ECZ’s mandate starts and ends with holding elections only.

 Ms Bwalya said the holding of by elections is dependent on the disposal of electoral petitions which are solely the jurisdiction of the courts of law.

 She told ZANIS in an interview in Lusaka today that it was not for her organization to ensure that the constituencies have members of parliament representing them but only to enforce the holding of elections to fill a vacancy.

 Petauke Central, Malambo and Mulobezi Constituencies in Eastern and Western provinces have for over the last seven months had no parliamentary representation following the Supreme Court’s nullification of elections of the incumbent members of parliament due to electoral malpractices during the 2011 Tripartite Elections.

 MMD’s Dora Siliya, Maxwell Mwale and UPND’s Hastings Sililo were elected members of parliament for Petauke Central, Malambo and Mulobezi constituencies respectively but their election was subsequently nullified by the High Court following petitions by losing Patriotic Front (PF) candidates Leonard Banda, Kaweche Kaunda and Abertina Pota.

Ms Bwalya has since distanced the Commission from allegations that it has deprived people of Petauke Central, Malambo and Mulobezi Constituencies parliamentary representation and the right to vote due to the continued postponement of the three by elections.

Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) Executive Director Macdonald Chipenzi raised concern that the people from the three constituencies have gone beyond the constitutional requirement of 90 days in which a by-election should be held to elect new members of parliament.

“The non holding of elections in these constituencies is a great source of concern. People have been denied the right to representation, the right to vote, to choose their representatives. This is diluting representative democracy because representatives are not available. We request that those that dispense justice should bear in mind that people are wallowing in injustice, “said Mr Chipenzi.

He charged that the Judiciary is not effectively dealing with the pending and postponed by elections and the election petitions.

He added that the electoral act is the source of the prevailing electoral problems in the country and needs swift legal reforms to refine and conform the electoral act to changing times.

Mr. Chipenzi said the electoral litigation process should target individual members of parliament whom upon being found guilty of electoral malpractices should instantly be convicted which will automatically constitutionally bar the convict.

Recently, the ECZ postponed by- elections in Kasenengwa, Solwezi Central, and Mkushi South due to electoral petitions.