Zambia’s incumbent President Edgar Lungu from the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party plans to file his nomination papers at the Electoral Commission of Zambia on Thursday, according to Priscilla Isaac, director of elections at the commission.
Tilyenji Kaunda of the opposition United National Independence Party (UNIP) and son of Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda, and Edith Nawakwi, first female presidential candidate from the Forum for Democracy and Development, have filed nomination papers to be presidential candidates for their respective parties in the run-up to the August 11 general election.
The official nomination period for Zambia’s presidential election began on May 30 and is scheduled to be concluded on June 3. The electoral body has also announced that all presidential candidates will have to pay $6,589 in nomination fees in order to participate in the presidential poll.
Uproar over ‘pay to run’ fee
Wynter Kabimba, a candidate for the opposition Rainbow Party, condemned the fee as exorbitant.
"We in Rainbow Party are left wondering, what is the purpose?" local media quoted Kabimba as saying on a local radio program this week. Using an acronym for the commission, he asked, "Since when did ECZ become a money-making machine, you know, a profit-making organization? It was not established for that purpose."
FILE - Polling station workers are seen guarding ballot boxes following presidential elections in Lusaka, Zambia, Jan. 21, 2015. Lungu prevailed at that poll, which was called to replace Zambia's late president Michael Sata.
Director of Elections Isaac disagreed, saying the electoral commission received significant public support for the fees.
Meanwhile, the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) – the second biggest opposition party – notified the electoral commission that it will not present a presidential candidate in this year’s vote.
This, after internal disputes caused an apparent split within the group, with one faction led by former MMD leader Nevers Mumba endorsing main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, while the other faction has begun talks to form an alliance with President Lungu and the ruling PF ahead of the elections.
Ballot printing controversy
Opposition and civil society groups are still pushing back against the decision of the electoral commission to award the tender to print the ballot papers to Al Ghurair Printing Company of Dubai. The groups contend it is too expensive for the electoral commission to print the documents in Dubai instead of in neighboring South Africa.
Isaac says the electoral body has implemented the measures to ensure transparency and accountability in the entire electoral process.
“Yesterday, the political parties were informed of the decision of the [electoral] commission was final. We did not receive any evidence other than speculation and media reports about doubts regarding the printing firm that we had settled for. And so having gone through the process even a re-evaluation of the tender, we still did not find any,” said Isaac.
“All the participating political parties that would be fielding presidential candidates will be entitled to have one agent sponsored in full by the commission to witness the printing of ballot papers from start to finish, up to the dispatch of the ballot papers to Zambia," he added. "And of course when the ballot papers are landed in Zambia, we will have the party agents at the airport to receive them, to verify them before they are dispatched to the various districts and polling stations in readiness for the elections.”