In Zambia, opposition patriotic front party says it will not recognize the outcome of Thursday’s tripartite elections. This comes after what the party claims are gaping loopholes in the operations of the electoral commission (ECZ), which it says the commission has not addressed. The party adds that the proposed use of a partially computerized system for collating presidential ballots provides a loophole for the introduction of fake or ghost votes into the system.
In a letter to the ECZ dated last Thursday, Commission Chairperson, Justice Irene Mambilima, also copied to all diplomatic missions, political parties, and PF director of research Chileshe Mulenga said that the loopholes should not be overlooked.
Mulenga said that PF finds ECZ director Dan Kalale's position as director of elections unattainable because he is clearly part of the ruling party propaganda team.
PF leader Michael Sata is the main challenger to President Levy Mwanawasa, who is seeking re-election.
Reporter Peter Clottey caught up with the Zambia electoral commission chairperson Mambilima to address the opposition party’s concerns about ensuring free and fair elections.
Mambilima said, “The stakeholders themselves, the political parties expressed grave concern on the way the results will be tabulated. Because, they were not happy with the way it was done manually in 2001. In response to that, we did tell them and patriotic front was present. That we will try and put in place a private network for ECZ to connect all our districts to Lusaka. So that results are scanned from those areas into Lusaka. And we did state early on that the counting would be done at the polling station. The result form, every political party agent will have to sign for their result after the count at the polling station. This is the document, which is going to be scanned to us through the system. So we believe that, that is enough. And in any case how can the equipment itself be tuned to rig the result, when the system was put in place long before they even quarreled with the Chinese? So I don’t believe that is a legitimate concern, as far as I’m concern they may have other issues. But I have explained to them, that I don’t take that.”
Mambilima says some people want to set the tone for election dispute and are beginning to do that. But the electoral commission has done all in its power to ensure free and fair elections on Thursday.
“ Yes, we think that some people want to call that dispute. So as a result of those concerns, we did call them yesterday, all the political parties and other professionals to come and look at the system and look at the way forward. So the agreement was that, they will place people themselves to see the results coming in. and they should be at the polling station, witness the account and their people should make sure they sign those forms because those are the forms which will be sent in to Lusaka. I don’t believe that the electoral commission could have done anything more that what we have put in place. The legitimate concern I will accept is that, we should have enough mechanism to test the results, which will come that, it will be true and that in deed it has come from the polling stations. And we believe that, that is in place. That’s why we have included them to be there. They will be there at the polling station, they will be here in Lusaka,” Mambilima said.
She differed with accusations leveled against the director of the electoral commission Dan Kalale, that seeks to portray him as an implant by the incumbent government to tamper with elections results.
“This accusation, has come now, and we have worked with Kalale, he has grown up literally in that institution. We have no evidence at all that he is part of the special branch (secret service) or anything. As far as we are concerned, Mr. Kalale is not a policy maker in the electoral commission; he is just a mouthpiece of the commission. So he cannot influence whatever the commission is doing. The policy maker is the commission itself. Mr. Kalale is simply the chief executive to carry out the decisions of the commission. As far as we are concerned we have worked well with him, he has done his job very professionally, we have no reason to believe that those allegations are true, “ she noted.
Meanwhile, the electoral commission has warned employers they risk facing the full rigors of the law if they do not allow their employees to vote this Thursday.
Let us know what you think of this report and other stories on our website. Send your views to AFRICA@VOANEWS.COM, and include your phone number. Or, call us here in Washington, DC at (202) 205-9942. After you hear the VOA identification, press 30 to leave a message. We want to hear what you have to say!