Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa has announced that general elections will be held on September 28th. The Constitution gives the president the mandate to announce election dates. But the public has questioned the mandate because it appears to give the president an advantage. Meanwhile, President Mwanawasa has made his candidacy for a second term official. Zambia?s electoral commissioner, Justice Irene Mabilima, spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the significance of announcement.
?This means that is now all systems go. On Monday, which is the 31st of July, our new register will come into force; then we are meeting some time today to agree on the date for nomination for the presidential election and for the parliamentary elections. In terms of the other materials for the elections, they are on course.?
Mambilima said, ?We are ready, we have chosen the printer to print the ballot papers, we have already received the ballot boxes, we have received the number for the other election materials, a few still remain to be delivered. And the time between now and September is more than adequate. We will be launching our voter education program on 28th and also we will be having our training of trainers for the conflict resolution committees, we are on course.?
She said, ?For the people aspiring to be president, we have put in place a number of activities, especially with regards to the media. We will organize a program for them to articulate their manifestos, we will have profiles of their political parties; where I am here in Livingston have just been meeting with the police to agree on how they will apply the public order act with regards to all the candidates in the elections: that they must give access and police their meetings after they are given due notification and that we must liaise from now on the electoral campaign. So I would say that we are really geared that this time around there should be a level playing field.?
Mambilima explained how the commission is preparing to ensure free and fair elections. ?What we have done is to be transparent in our dealings. For most of our operations, we are involving the stakeholders. For example, on the issue of ballot papers, which would be done in South Africa, we will pay for representatives from the political parties [and] the NGOs to be present in South Africa throughout the period of printing the ballot papers. They will come with those ballot papers in Lusaka, when we are using air transport, which has been a subject of contention for some; we will ask them to accompany those ballot papers. Even when they arrive at the destination, we will ask them to be present; the counting should be done transparently in the presence of all the political parties. And we have asked that each one of them should defend for their results at the polling station. And those are the results we are going to use to compile to find who has won.?
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!