President Edgar Chagwa Lungu should consider suspending the enforcement of the invoked article 31 of the Constitution and the application of the preservation of public security Act cap 112 of the laws of Zambia in districts and wards holding by-elections for districts council chairpersons and councilors scheduled for September, 2017 as announced by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).
An Electoral Expert Mcdonald Chipenzi said in a statement today that with the by-elections now set in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and the electoral process Act whose campaigns and election date fall within the period still under a full-force of State of threatened Public Emergency, there will be need for President Lungu to either relax the requirements or suspend the enforcement of article 31 and Preservation of Public Security Act.
Mr Chipenzi noted that the enforcement of the above pieces of legislation will demand for the derogation, suspension, and restriction of citizens freedoms and rights including those of the contestants, their parties, and supporters such as political assemblies, movements, dissemination of information, expression, processions and rallies, which are necessary ingredients for a sound competitive electoral process.
He said the suspension of the enforcement of article 31 and preservation of public security Act ahead of the scheduled by-elections in the affected districts and wards would necessitate and assure a level electoral play field to all electoral players such as political parties, candidates and civil society organisations.
Mr Chipenzi pointed out that it will be unfair and an affront to competitive electoral democracy and a sound electoral process to proceed to holding the by-elections in the presence of a state of threatened public emergency in these areas and when people’s rights and freedoms are restricted as it would render other contenders in the contest irrelevant and ineffective in canvassing electoral support.
“In this vein, President Lungu has a duty in complimenting the work of ECZ to conduct credible elections by immediately suspending the invocation of Article 31 and the application of the Preservation of Public Security Act in the affected districts and wards and instruct all law enforcement agencies to allow a smooth holding of these by-elections without hindrance,” He said.
He has called on ECZ to guide the electoral participants, political parties, candidates ,and media on how the electoral activities in the three (3) districts and wards where by-elections are scheduled would be conducted in the face of the existing state of threatened public emergency.
“Any holding of by-elections with the obtaining political situation and without suspending article 31 and preservation of public security Act will render the by-elections, from the onset, unfair, not free and the electoral outcomes likely to lack legitimacy and credibility,” Mr Chipenzi said