The printing of ballot papers for Zambia's elections is progressing steadily in Dubai and should be complete — with ballots delivered to polling stations — in time for the southern African country's elections August 11, says Silvia Bwalya, deputy spokesperson for the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).
The Dubai-based Al Ghurair Printing Company is preparing the ballot papers to be used for presidential, legislative and local elections, as well as any referendums.
A team of electoral officials from the ECZ, stakeholders and representatives of the participating political parties is in Dubai monitoring production.
The team is expected to remain in the United Arab Emirates through the end of July.
Bwalya says printing of presidential ballots will commence after a representative of the ruling Patriotic Front arrives in Dubai on Saturday.
"So far we've printed referendum ballot papers in full — that is, 100 percent,” she said. “They finished today, and in terms of mayoral and chairpersons ballot papers, this was started printing yesterday and we expect to finish the printing of these ballot papers by tomorrow. And, currently, we are proofreading the local governments' ballot papers. ... We cannot go ahead and print the ballot papers for the presidential election without the presence of all the political parties' representation."
In terms of the printing done so far, Bwalya says the electoral team is pleased.
"All the stakeholders that are here right now are very happy with the quality control and assurance and also the security and the environment of the printing company, and also the security features as well,” she said.
The ballot papers will be inspected by the political parties' representatives and then be transported to Zambia by cargo plane. Political representatives and the ECZ will inspect the ballot papers again upon arrival in Lusaka, and then accompany the documents as they are distributed across the country for the elections.
Some critics have said political party representatives should be allowed to fly from Dubai to the Zambian capital with the ballot papers, to ensure transparency and prevent possible future complaints of vote rigging.
Opposition and civil society groups had earlier criticized the electoral commission's decision to award the printing contract to the Al Ghurair firm in Dubai, saying the company was too costly. Those groups pushed to print the documents in neighboring South Africa.
Priscilla Isaac of the ECZ told VOA the electoral body based its decisions on maximizing transparency and accountability throughout the electoral process.