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Zambia's Electoral Commission Asks Partisans to Refrain from Violent Action

Monday in Zambia, political parties filed nominations for parliamentary and local government candidates. But the Electoral Commission has warned that it will not tolerate clashes between supporters during this process. It has advised partisans to leave the center immediately after filing their candidate’s nomination. Eleven political parties have confirmed their participation in the upcoming tripartite elections, scheduled for September 28th. Justice Irene Mambilima, the commissioner of Zambia’s Electoral Commission, spoke with VOA English to Africa Servicereporter Peter Clottey about the nomination process.

Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa filed his nomination papers for the general elections on Friday, followed by opposition leader Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front. Sata addressed supporters, saying he was confident he would win the election. Mwanawasa, who is seeking a second term, is likely to face a tough challenge from Hakainde Hichilema of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), which is made up of three opposition parties.

“We did ask the parties that during the time of filing nominations papers, they should avoid violence. They should prevail upon their supporters not to attack each other. We said this because in the past there have been instances where political parties supporters have clashed with each other. Sometimes even when one is having a rally, the others will go and disrupt that rally, or when they are having a forum, then they start attacking each other. What we want is a clean campaign; let them campaign peacefully, address the issues, to enable the electorate to make their choice.”

Mambilima discouraged acts of bribery or allegations of bribery, which have plagued many of the country’s elections.

“What we have said is that any act of bribery, vote buying, giving of gifts must be reported, whether to us, to the police or to the Anti-Corruption Commission. But sadly, what we have seen is that some people rush to the press and we hear of these complaints in the press, so that sort of complicates matters because, even when the police move in, they will find the culprit would have cleaned their act. So what we are appealing to the people is that, whatever information they have, they should first report to the law enforcement agency or ourselves so that we move in, because we need to stop this vice of giving gifts or buying or bribing voters during elections. And in many electoral petitions, these are the allegations, but I think the problem is that no one has been arrested and prosecuted for this thing. So…we are going to arrest any one who is found doing this thing.”

She spoke about the Electoral Commission’s preparations for next month’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

“In fact we are very ready for that task, our nominations for the presidential elections have started, and they end on Monday (today). And then the nominations for the parliamentary and local government is on the 15th of August. As an Electoral Commission we are ready; as I said, now most of our materials have been delivered, we are now in the process of briefing our electoral staff. We have already briefed our returning officers, district electoral staff, and we are now decentralizing to the district to brief all the polling agents, polling assistants. And we will like that even the political parties who are taking part in this election, during those briefings now they should be present. So that we will be briefed together on how these people are supposed to conduct themselves, what are the electoral rules governing the poll, so that everybody is aware. We all know the rules of the game.”

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