The Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) has said it noted several violations of the Electoral Code of Conduct by candidates and their supporters in last week’s Luangwa Council Chairperson by-election won by the Patriotic Front (PF).
CCMG recruited, trained and deployed nine (9) Long-Term Observers to observe the pre-election environment across all the seventeen (17) wards in Luangwa District ahead of the 15 September 2022 Council Chairperson by-election.
For election day in Luangwa, CCMG recruited, trained and deployed forty-five (45) election monitors stationed across all the forty-five (45) polling stations in Luangwa District.
In a statement, CCMG Programme Manager Peter Mwanagombe said violence, voter inducement, failure to follow the campaign schedules, use of insulting language and involvement of civil servants in campaigns as some incidents witnessed in Luangwa.
Mr. Mwanangombe said particularly the UPND and PF were the major culprits in breaking the Electoral Code of Conduct during campaigns.
He said while the electoral environment was generally calm and peaceful, CCMG noted with great concern isolated incidents of violence mainly involving UPND and the PF.
“On September 8,a CCMG monitor in Feira reported a violent altercation between UPND and PF members, in which a PF member was injured. The incident was reported to the Police, with no arrests reported. On 14 and15 September, UPND supporters attacked the Socialist Party camp and, in the process, damaged a vehicle belonging to the Socialist Party. This is a violation of Section 4(2)(d)of the Electoral Code of Conduct. CCMG noted, with concern, acts of voter inducement involving the distribution of chitenge
material to villagers in Undi village in Chiriwe Ward by UPND cadres contrary to Section 15(1) (h) (iii) of the Electoral Code of Conduct. CCMG’s monitors also reported violation of section 15(1) (i)of the Code by a traditional leader in Kanenela village of Chiriwe Ward who was soliciting votes for the UPND candidate during the social cash transfer registration of new
members. CCMG believes that these violations undermine the credibility of elections and calls on the ECZ to proactively engage political parties and traditional leaders on the need to ato the Electoral Code of Conduct and to investigate and sanction erring political parties, candidates, and traditional leaders as provided for under the sameCode.
Voter education targeting special interest groups, women, youth, and persons with disabilities, was low with only 33% of CCMG’s monitors reporting having witnessed or heard of voter information/education activities aimed at youth, 39% reporting witnessing or hearing of voter
information/education activities aimed at women, and 33% reporting witnessing or hearing of voter information/education activities aimed at persons with disabilities,” Mr. Mwanangombe said.
“CCMG noted several violations of the Electoral Code of Conduct by candidates and their supporters,particularly the UPND and PF. Specifically, CCMG’s monitors reported use of insulting language by the PF candidate against the UPND candidate during a campaign rally in Nyaukwindi of Luangwa District contrary to Section 15(1)(a)and (c)of the Code. CCMGalso noted with concern the involvement of civil servants (Provincial Permanent Secretary) in political hiparty campaigns of the UPND contrary to Section 15(1)(i)of the Electoral Code of CCMG remains concerned with the involvement of civil servants, traditional and religious leaders in partisan politics and strongly calls on the ECZ and the Civil Service Commission to take action in accordance with the provisions of the law. Furthermore, CCMG calls on the
Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and other government agencies to avoid commencing the implementation of social development activities duringany election campaign period to ward off the appearance of the use of government programmes for political expediency. Such acts could potentially undermine the integrity and credibility of the electoral process.”
He said ECZ, the District Voter Education Committees (DVEC), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and the media should increase their efforts in future elections to provide accessible
information to all prospective voters, with a particular focus on marginalised groups.
“CCMG notes ECZ’s effort to develop political campaign schedules with political parties and the police and publicising the same, which reduced party clashes at campaign events as none of CCMG’s monitors recorded any contravention in this regard. If continued, this will ensure
strict adherence to the agreed to campaign schedules as well as facilitate an equitable campaign environment,including reduced instances of clashes in future elections. While CCMG’s monitors reported that ballot papers for the Luangwa Council Chairperson by election were subjected to verification by all contesting candidates on 13 September 2022 at the Luangwa District Council, there have been sentiments that stakeholders were not informed of where and when ballot papers for the Luangwa Council Chairperson by-elections were printed, when they arrived in Lusaka, when they were dispatched to Luangwa District, and who
was notified to inspect the ballots in Lusaka as well as in Luangwa. CCMG calls on the ECZ to take deliberate measures to promote transparency in the electoral process by communicating such undertakings to stakeholders comprehensively and in a timely manner as has been consistently done in past elections,” Mr. Mwanangombe said.
He added that besides areas of improvement, CCMG observed that procedure was well followed on the day of voting.
“CCMG finds that the Luangwa Council Chairperson by election followed the national and regional standard procedures for the setup, voting and counting processes. All of CCMG’s monitors who were deployed to polling stations were permitted to observe. At 100% of the polling stations, polling officials checked the fingers of potential voters for indelible ink prior to voting, and marked the voters’ fingers/thumbs with indelible ink prior to voting. At 100% of polling stations, no one voted without the requisite documents such as NRC or voter ID or had ink on their finger. CCMG further notes that 42% of polling stations did not have Braille Jackets for blind voters while all other required materials were present at the start of voting. At those polling stations where there were voters in the queue at 18hrs, all were given an opportunity to vote. PF party agents were present for the counting of ballot papers at 100% of polling stations, UPND party agents were present for counting at 100% of polling stations. Additionally, in 100% of polling stations there were other parties/candidate’s agents present for the counting process. In all the polling stations, party/candidate’s agents all agreed with the results, signed the results forms and each was given a copy. At all polling stations, ballot papers were counted at the polling station where they were cast; all ballot papers were shown to all party agents and monitors present so they could see how each ballot paper was marked; all ballot papers were sorted into individual piles by candidate. At 100% of polling stations, official results were posted at the polling station for the public to see,” Mr. Mwanangombe said.
PF’s Lawrence Shaba won the by-election with 4075 votes followed by his closest rival Arthur Lungu of UPND who collected 3767 votes, Christopher Njobvu (SP) got 384 votes followed by Julius Sikasote (IND) 62 votes and Geoffrey Mumba (LM) who had 60 votes.
According to ECZ, the voter turn out was 59.11%.