The US government is reportedly expressing confidence that Zambia's presidential by-election next week would be credible and meet international standards. US ambassador to Zambia Donald Booth said Zambia's admirable commitment to democratic should serve as an example to other countries in the southern African region. He adds that Zambia's tradition of peaceful elections and respect for the will of the people would prevail as the election campaign season draws to a close.
Zambians will go to the polls to elect a new leader to replace the late president Levy Mwanawasa who died on Aug. 19. There are four presidential candidates who are currently conducting campaigns, which reportedly have been marred by pockets of violence from different parts of the country.
From the capital, Lusaka, political analyst Fred Mtesa tells reporter Peter Clottey that Zambians are expressing confidence that there would not be any violence during or after the presidential poll.
"It is the wish of every Zambian to see a peaceful election and a peaceful post-election period in Zambia. However, a lot depends on how the contestants would perceive the manner in which the election would have been conducted. If they are perceived to have been free and fair, then of course Zambia would maintain the tradition of peaceful transfer of power which we have seen since 1990," Mtesa said.
He said recent remarks from various campaigns have some Zambians scratching their heads.
"There have been disquieting statements and developments that have taken place in the last couple of weeks. Firstly on the opposition side, we have heard statements that they would not accept any results, which would put the ruling MMD (Movement for Multiparty Democracy) party back into power because they think they've done sufficient groundwork to carry the day," he said.
Mtesa said the upcoming presidential election could be considered credible if past experience could be improved significantly in this election.
"If the Electoral Commission of Zambia can build on the achievements of the 2006 general elections, then I would say that the electoral process in the nation would be credited with integrity. I think a lot of observers, including participants in the 2006 presidential election compared to 2001 could tell you that what we had in 2006 was relatively free and fair. And therefore, the outcome was credible and acceptable to a lot of people, although there were noises from the opposition PF (Patriotic Front) at the beginning. But eventually, everybody realized that the PF of Mr. Michael Sata had not covered the whole country, and therefore the loss was a genuine one," Mtesa pointed out.
He said some opposition political parties are being sharply critical about some decisions of the electoral commission.
"One is because of past experience, and secondly, I would say there have been disagreements on the management of the ballot papers. To begin with, the printing of extra ballot papers in a country where the total number of registered voters does not turn up to vote has raised suspicion. And secondly, the discussion around how those extra ballot papers would be dealt with and some moves on the part of government officials have further fueled the suspicion that some foul play is afoot on the part of the electoral commission of Zambia. But again, we have a statement coming from the electoral commission of Zambia explaining that there have been some misunderstandings about the whole process," he noted.
US Ambassador Booth pledged that his government would continue to help Zambia carry out economic development, saying that American development assistance is intended to serve as a catalyst to boost Zambia's development efforts and expand economic growth.