|ZAMBIAN ELECTION RESULTS SLOW DUE TO DELAYS IN VOTING
Updated: 28 December 2001
by By Kondwani Chirambo and Hugh McCullum in Lusaka
LUSAKA, 28 December - The slow results of yesterday's national elections in Zambia have been blamed on poor and inefficient organization by the electoral management body.
Voters scorched the state media and the electoral commission for the long delays in announcing the results of the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.
"The people of Zambia showed enormous patience as delay after delay caused by logistical problems kept people in queues for many hours and forced thousands more to cast their ballots late and even into today," said Dr Alfred Chanda, president of Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) after a frustrating 24 hours of visiting polling stations around the country.
By late afternoon Friday very few unofficial results were trickling into the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) headquarters. The few results that were known indicated that the presidential election was still too close to call with the main four candidates grouped ahead of the other seven. These are: Levy Mwananwasa of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD); Christon Tembo of the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD); Godfrey Miyanda of the Heritage Party (HP) and Anderson Mazoka of the United Party for National Development (UNDP).
Voting in some areas ended at 1800 hours yesterday but many others voted late into the night and even a number of polling stations were still open today. This delayed counting which was still continuing into this evening. Official verified results are not expected at least until Saturday. Michael Meadowcroft, chief observer of the European Union (EU) Mission said simply "there was gross inefficiency and incompetency in organizing this election."
He described one truck, which had to deliver voting kits including ballots and boxes to 54 stations on voting day. "People waited in queues for more than 12 hours. It was appalling.'
He pointed to the lack of capacity by the Electoral Commission and its lack of autonomy as some of the contributory factors. " The Commission lacks staff of its own--it depends on others. It cannot implement decisions on its own because it is not autonomous according to a recent ruling by the courts", Meadowcroft said. Huge numbers of voters turned out yesterday, unofficially some observers and monitors claim perhaps 80 percent of the 2.6 million registered voters cast ballots.
"It is clear the ECZ does not have the ability to run tripartite elections. The delays were unwarranted and widespread, there was a serious shortage of trained workers and polling officials and now the counting is dismal," Chanda charged.
Many voters claimed the delays in both voting and counting may have deliberate and blamed the ruling MMD party for failing to give the commission the independence and resources required to run an election of this magnitude.
FODEP said President Frederick Chiluba "had done everything possible to make this election difficult beginning with his attempt to seek an unconstitutional third term as president." Other problems cited were: setting the election date 27 December in midst of the Christmas festivities; the seasonal heavy rains which usually render rural Zambia almost impassable;
the open bias of the state-owned mass media in favour of the MMD; the misuse of government resources to support materially the ruling MMD while other parties were required to find their own finances; the lack of trained election officials; and lethargy and lack of independence of the ECZ. People wanted to vote and were extremely patient, observers claimed and there was no violence although many polling stations opened late and crowds became restive.
"Today, despite a wonderful electoral turnout yesterday, there are a lot of suspicions out there. It is astonishing resilience on the part of the Zambian voters-there were no riots" Meadowcroft said. The ECZ, which has established a computerized electoral centre at Mulungushi Hall had by late in the day not released any results and flashy screens remained empty. The ECZ was reluctant to issue any statements explaining the long delays, preferring to allow the state media to explain that counting was delayed because voting was delayed.
But the state media blamed the ECZ for its lack of information, although all observers and monitors said considerable unofficial results were known but were not being released until verified which led to further suspicions among FODEP and Coalition 2001, two of the main independent electoral monitoring agencies in Zambia.
It is expected to be a long and frustrating night for Zambians as results continue to arrive at a tediously slow rate. (SARDC).
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