The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) in Zambia has issued a preliminary report of their findings, calling for patience and restraint from stakeholders as they await final results.
The Group’s preliminary statement congratulated Zambians for turning out in significant numbers to exercise their democratic right to vote and holding their sixth multi-party general elections against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Results are due to be released by the Zambia Electoral Commission but, speaking on the release of the COG’s interim statement, its Chair, former President of Tanzania, HE Jakaya Kikwete said: “We urge all Zambians, regardless of party affiliation, to exercise patience, tolerance and restraint while the Electoral Commission of Zambia concludes the results processes. We also call upon the Electoral Commission of Zambia to expedite the announcement of all verified election results.”
While issuing the statement in a press conference in Lusaka, The Group commended the successful printing of ballot papers, which was monitored by political parties and civil society organisations. The Group was also impressed by prisoners voting at correctional facilities which is a first in Zambia’s electoral history. These, he said, are significant steps in ensuring greater participation and inclusivity in the electoral process.
The Chair noted concerns about the secrecy of the ballot. He said: “The process required the recording of the ID number on the counter-foil which contained a serial number also repeated on the ballot paper. There is a danger that this practice may be misused against certain voters.”
On the social media shutdown, the statement said: “The shutting down of social media applications on election day was noted with concern. It restricts freedom of speech and contradicts Zambia’s commitment to the values enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter.”
In the run-up to Election Day, the COG met with a broad range of stakeholders including the Electoral Commission, the Coalition for Peaceful Elections in Zambia, political parties, presidential aspirants, representatives of civil society - including women and youth groups - media, the police and other observers.
On election day, the group was deployed across the country, covering nine provinces.
The final report, which will set out the full findings on the process and recommendations in greater detail, will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, and thereafter shared with the Government of Zambia, the Electoral Commission, political parties and Commonwealth governments before being made public.