The Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group, HE Dr Jakaya Kikwete, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania says that the voting, closing and counting process following the Zambian General Elections and Referendum has been credible and transparent. However, the Group will reserve full judgement of the overall process until it publishes its final report in the coming months.
‘I commend the people of the Republic of Zambia for the peaceful and orderly manner in which they exercised their right to vote’, he said to a packed press conference in Lusaka.
‘On Election Day, our Observers reported that most voting stations opened on time with few exceptions. They were struck by the long queues in some polling stations but found that voting generally took place in an atmosphere of calm.’
Seventeen Commonwealth Observers were deployed to all ten provinces of Zambia. They fed back their observations over the pre-election period and Election Day. After the elections they remained in their areas to assess the post-election atmosphere.
Over six and half million people are eligible to vote in Zambia and turn out is expected to be high. Women are active participators in the election process and Observers were pleased to see an equal number of men and women voters taking part not just as voters, but also as polling officers and other staff involved in the election process.
‘We urge all political parties and candidates to respect the will of the people of Zambia’, the Chair reiterated. ‘This is the Zambian Constitutional way. It is also the Commonwealth way.’
The Commonwealth Observer Group, composed of seventeen persons drawn from across the Commonwealth, was appointed by Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland QC. Their mandate is to observe the preparations for the election, the polling, counting and the results processes, and the overall electoral environment.
The observers are tasked with assessing whether the elections were conducted according to the standards to which Zambia has committed, including domestic law and relevant regional, Commonwealth and other international standards. The observers are bound by the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation, to which the Commonwealth is a signatory.
The Commonwealth Observer Group arrived in Zambia on 4 August and was deployed to all ten provinces of Zambia. The final report will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will in turn send it to the Government of the Republic of Zambia, Electoral Commission of Zambia, political parties, and all Commonwealth governments. It will shortly thereafter be made public.
Image caption: Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group to Zambia is joined by Heads of International Observer Groups in Lusaka, Zambia for the release of the Commonwealth Interim Statement.