With less than seven days until next week?s general tripartite elections, Zambia?s Electoral Commission says it is prepared. Recent controversial reports have suggested that the ballot papers of some constituencies are missing, which has caused negative speculation of foul play and electoral fraud.
Meanwhile incumbent President Levy Mwanawasa is facing pressure from former President Frederick Chiluba?s endorsement of main opposition contender Michael Sata. Chiluba broke his long silence to plead innocent to corruption charges, describing the accusations against him as politically motivated.
Chiluba says the charges that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars of state funds while serving as head of state are not credible. Chiluba says his hand-picked successor, Levy Mwanawasa, has continued using the case to bolster his political campaign ahead of the September 28th general elections. Chiluba also repeated his call to Zambians to oust Mwanawasa in next week's vote and replace him with the controversial opposition leader, Sata, who has promised to drop the corruption cases.
Justice Irene Mambilima is chairperson of Zambia?s Electoral Commission. She talked with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about what preparations they have made for next week?s elections.
?We are very prepared for the elections on the 28th of September, I should say that most of the materials, the non-security items are being delivered, the ballot boxes have already been delivered, we are now busy packing the ballot papers. As you may be aware, they were printed in South Africa. We had two shipments; the last one arrived on Saturday. Unfortunately there was misleading press reports, that some of the ballot papers for some constituencies for the northern province were missing which report were not actually correct. And our briefing for the presiding officers and the other polling staff, we started on Sunday. I think we will finish by this week. Our connectivity program, the one, which we shall use for result management, the training, is going on and we hope to commission it sometime next week. Just be fore the elections. So I should say that, we are pretty ready to hold the elections on the 28th,? she said
Mambilima says she has been urging politicians in this month?s tripartite election to desist from name-calling and focus on issues. But this advice she said had fallen on deaf ears.
?Yes we did ask the candidates to focus on issues rather than personal attacks. But unfortunately these personal attacks have continued in certain respects. And also we have seen that, we have seen a number of reports, not very wide but in a few areas of breach of the electoral code of conduct. What we have done is to urge all complainant?s to take their complains to the conflict resolution committees, which was set up in every district. And I must say that they have been quite busy with all manner of complains between the contestants,? she noted.
She said the electoral commission is still processing applications for local and international observers wanting to monitor the elections. She adds that they are expecting some more observers to turn up.
?I think the first to arrive were the European Union, their long term observers did arrive and they have been deployed to all the provinces. And I was on the copper belt province over the weekend, I had a meeting with the stakeholders and they were in attendance. So I should say that, the EU monitors are already busy, they are on the ground. And we know that the commonwealth team is already in. in fact we will be meeting the head of the team or some of the observers. The SADC (south African development commission) parliamentary forum, I should think they are also in because they were asking for us to meet them tomorrow but we will be going to central province to have a meeting with the stakeholders. And we have proposed that we meet later in the week. So I should say that the international observers are arriving. And so far we have accredited more than 800. A lot of organizations are actually applying to be allowed to monitor the elections,? she said.
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!