THE Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) wants more powers to impose severe sanctions against political parties or individuals abrogating the Electoral Code of Conduct with impunity.
ECZ chairperson Ireen Mambilima said only if the Commission is given more powers to impose serve sanctions would it also level the electoral playing field.
Speaking during the ECZ political parties liaison on the delimitation of wards and polling districts at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre, Ms Justice Mambilima said what the Commission was asking for was nothing out of the ordinary.
“Time and again, we have seen the abrogation of the Electoral code of conduct with impunity. It is our view that if we have to effectively level the electoral playing field, we must be given powers to impose more severe sanctions than those which are obtaining now,” she said.
Ms Justice Mambilima gave an example of Kenya where the abrogation of the Electoral code attracts severe sanctions including a fine and barring the culprits from participating in the next elections.
She said stakeholders had always called for the strengthening of the Commission’s powers so that that it could disqualify political parties and candidates who engage in violence and other electoral malpractices.
The ECZ is proposing increasing the number of constituencies countrywide from the current 150 to 235 following President Michael Sata’s decision to establish 29 new districts which has resulted in the revision of district boundaries.
“Invariably, some constituency boundaries have also been affected by the revised district boundaries meaning that the Commission will adjust some constituency, ward and polling district boundaries to avoid a situation where a constituency falls within two or more districts,” she said.
Ms Justice Mambilima said the need to adjust electoral boundaries was a priority to ensure all the new districts have at least one constituency and to realign the boundaries of wards and constituencies that have been affected by the creation of the new districts.
The ECZ chairperson said the constituencies that overlap into two districts were not only a serious challenge to the Commission in terms of logistical and personnel election administration but also for the Councillors who belong to more than one districts.
The parties that attended the workshop unanimously welcomed the delimitation exercise with PF deputy secretary General Bridget Atanga saying the move would mitigate the long distances people used to walk to polling stations.
UPND general secretary Winstone Chibwe said the move was long overdue while UNIP director of elections, Henry Silumesi described it as a progressive idea which should be supported by all well-meaning Zambians.
MMD deputy national secretary Chembe Nyangu said the delimitation would cut vast constituencies to manageable size while ZADECO president Langtone Sichone said ECZ must complete the exercise before the 2016 general elections.