THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer mission has declared the January 20 presidential election as free and fair.
Head of the SADC Non-Governmental Organisations (SADC-CNGOS) observer mission in the Zambia presidential election, Sofonea Shale, said at a press briefing in Lusaka yesterday that there were no incidences of intimidation or voters being influenced as to who they should vote for.
He said the election was credible despite the low turnout.
“We have experienced voter apathy due to the movement of people from one place to another. We do not expect the number of people who have voted to be more than 40 percent,” Mr Shale said.
He said the period members of the public were given to replace voters’ cards was not adequate and many people, especially those in the rural areas, were not aware of the exercise.
Mr Shale said that there is need to invest more resources in the continuous voter registration exercise.
He said a number of people were disenfranchised because they could not get to the polling stations due to lack of transport and distance while others did not turn up with the correct documents.
Mr Shale called on ECZ to educate polling staff on how to conduct themselves during elections, adding that some officers did not understand their responsibilities.
He said while the public broadcaster is by law supposed to allocate equal time to candidates, beyond coverage, the content of news about candidates remains a challenge.
Mr Shale also said incidents of inter-party violence is regrettable.
“Zambia has in the difficult times been a haven for the troubled citizens of this region and today, it remains an oasis of peace. It would therefore be a regrettable setback if it can show signs of intolerance to the diversity of political views,” Mr Shale said.
And Great Lakes Region head of mission Joseph Biribonwa has said the election was free, fair, transparent, credible and democratic.
Briefing the press in Lusaka yesterday, Mr Biribonwa said the election substantially met regional and international standards of conducting elections.
“The electoral process was generally peaceful despite few cases of violence and intimidation reported during campaigns,” he said.
Mr Biribonwa said the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) conducted the process professionally within a short period of time.
He, however, said that the organisation has received reports of impartiality in media coverage.
Mr Biribonwa urged Zambians to maintain peace and order even after the final declaration of election results.
Meanwhile, UN resident coordinator Janet Rogan has called for calm and peace among Zambians as they wait for the official announcement of the presidential election result.
Ms Rogan told journalists at Lusaka’s Mulungushi International Conference Centre yesterday that there is no need for political parties to panic as they wait for the official result.
“Political parties should exercise patience because it is not the problem of the Electoral Commission of Zambia that results have been delayed and in some areas, voting was still underway.
“The commission did what it could but could not control the weather, hence the challenges it is facing,” Ms Rogan said.
She agreed with the decision by ECZ chairperson Irene Mambilima to postpone the announcing of results.
Ms Rogan said announcing results while other people are still voting could influence the electorate to vote for a candidate they feel is in the lead.
She said each citizen should be allowed to exercise their right to vote without being influenced in any way.