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Lusaka’s Dark Cloud

A  dark cloud hovers around the capital, the mood on the streets is most worrisome, yesterday I took time to talk to a couple of taxi drivers, general workers, nurses, miners and just about the ordinary person on the street and what came out is a lot of helplessness and deep rooted anger. A lot of people, at least those that I had a chance to interact with feel much cheated, why; a bus driver told me it’s a man discovering his wife has been sleeping around.  Whereas their reasons for feeling that way maybe as a result of their preferred candidate losing, for me their feelings brought out a couple of issues about our electoral system.

It’s very interesting how after every election we always have people crying foul; saying that the election was not conducted in a free and fair manner. Now there are two things here, it’s either the elections were not free and fair or that they were actually very free and fair. The losing candidates always cry foul and say they were cheated, it’s understandable, and losing can be a very painful experience. But you see that’s the beauty about football, in every match there is a winner and loser but losers rarely cry foul because the game is clear for all to see, you only win when you score more goals- very transparent system, easy to understand. You would recall that the last few years our national team has not been doing well, but we have not said the game was not fair, we have conceded defeat and we have said we have poor strikers. That’s all! How I wish politics was like that.

Perhaps it all points out to a few cobwebs in the electoral system, why is it that loser always says the election was not fair? Is it that the system or mode of election is not is not transparent enough? Could it be that the operations or conduct of the commission does not instil confidence in the voters and the politicians? Well it could as well mere lack of maturity or outward egos but let’s take the assumption that the frequent post-election out cries are justified.

Apart from the 2001 elections, foreign observers (referees as it were) described the elections that followed as having had been free and fair. Where they? 2006 and 2008 have both been marked with a lot of irregularities and indeed it is true that the current system is susceptible to manipulation by fraudulent politicians. There are a lot of things in this election that warrant suspicions. Starting with the announcement by the commission saying there will be no registration of new voters- a lot of voters were disfranchised. Think deeper, does that ring some bells?  There were questions raised when some presidential candidates starting giving out donations at a campaign rallies, there were issues raised when party cadres were seen being ferried in government vehicles and many other issues that the commission turned a blind eye to. As if not enough the commission printed out extra ballot papers in huge qualities even they were aware of the fact that they hadn’t registered any new voters and that will would low voter turnout (in the two year period from 2006-2008 a lot of people have moved or died).

It is things like this that raise a lot of suspicious; people in general don’t trust the Electoral Commission of Zambia, just look at how people came out with crazy stories of trucks moving around town with ballot papers. Companies formed in the name of curbing rigging. People in most polling stations stood outside as the election was in process, counting the votes with the electoral officers; people literally took it upon themselves to guard the vote but did they?

If at all this election was rigged it was done in such a way that even election observers could not see it, I will tell you how; talk to me nicely. But the fact you have the number of registered voters not tallying with the counted votes tells you something. Do you know how many voters didn’t vote as a result of death or migration? Does that ring a bell? All you need is to stretch your imagination further, you will realise just how cruel life can be.

The opposition say the election was not free and fair but can they prove it? Now they are seeking a recount but the President has already been sworn in. Bingo! That’s the game! Catch up if you can, it’s not for the faint hearted. If you like you can go to court and contest the vote ask Miyanda and the late Mazoka (May his soul rest in peace); they will tell you it is a sheer waste of time, by the time judgement is passed, the 2011 elections would have been held. Wake up and plan for the next election.

All this underlines a more serious problem; both the voters and the politicians have low confidence in the integrity of the Electoral Commission of Zambia. Surely you have read or heard what HH said yesterday. This should be a source of concern least the commission risks serious voter apathy in the next election. The autonomy of the commission needs to be guaranteed. Who appoints the office bearers of the commission? Does the framework of the commission make it susceptible to influence by the ruling party? What about the electoral code of conduct?

No accusations, just questions that every well meaning Zambian should think about especially when we are re creating the constitution. Fellow bloggers, let’s toss it

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