Zambia Bill of Rights referendum flops

Eye, Ear symbols for referendum
Eye, Ear symbols for referendum

By Francis Maingaila

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LUSAKA, Zambia

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The referendum, which was held alongside the presidential election on Aug. 11, to decide whether to enhance the Bill of Rights, has failed to pass due to lack of participation, the electoral commission announced Friday.

Electoral Commission of Zambia Chairman Justice Esau Chulu told journalists Friday morning that the total number of votes cast had failed to pass the 50 percent participation threshold.

“I therefore declare the referendum not successful,” said Chulu.

According to Justice Chulu, out of the 3,345,471 ballots, 1,853,559 were “Yes” votes while 753,549 were “No” votes and 739,363 were rejected.

The expanded Bill of Rights was to be included in the country’s new constitution, which was implemented in January.

United Nations (UN) resident coordinator in Zambia, Janet Rogan, told journalists that the expanded Bill of Rights will not be part of the new constitution, which could have benefited the people.

“Already, the new constitution and the current Bill of Rights are at variance. The expanded Bill of Rights could have harmonized the status quo,” rights group Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) president Lee Habasonda told journalists in Lusaka shortly after the commission announced the results of the referendum.

He blamed the flop of the referendum to a lack of an awareness campaign on the content of the expanded bill of rights and the move by political parties to politicize the document.

“Many people have told that, voting ‘Yes’ in the referendum would entail voting for the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and the majority that did not want PF voted ‘No’. This trend, coupled with the lack of information, led to the collapse of the referendum,” he said.

Opposition parties had called on supporters not to vote in the referendum — this explains the more than 700,000 ballots that were rejected — which was organized in parallel to the presidential election. They argued people should not vote for a bill that no one had yet seen.

Indeed, the draft for the new Bill of rights was not made public.

President Edgar Lungu was re-elected in the Aug. 11 election. Opposition parties have contested the result, citing irregularities. Arguments will be presented next Monday before the Constitutional Court.

SOURCE: Anadolu Agency

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