|ZAMBIA ELECTIONS WHAT REALLY HAPPENED.
Updated: 3 January 2002
by By Kondwani Chirambo and Hugh McCullum in LUSAKA
It is quiet now. Two days of unrest, legal action, muted celebrations and tear-gassed protesters, preceded by bewilderment: what really happened in Zambia's third multiparty elections since 1991?
A President sits in the highest office of the land with some 70 percent of the population having voted against him. Opposition parties are united in defeat--analysts say they should have done it much earlier--and monitors seek an audit to determine why the arithmetic simply will not add up.
Reports of glaring anomalies continue to haunt the aftermath of the country's most controversial elections as leading monitoring organizations today under-lined their concerns about variances between results released by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and those recorded in the field.
In these highly contested results, both local monitors and foreign observers say figures do not tally and are a source of worry because the presidential poll was so extremely close. Only 33,000 votes separated the two top candidates by swearing-in time Wednesday, with two small constituencies still to announce results.
They would not change the final tally, Chief Justice Mathew Ngulube told dignitaries, Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) supporters and journalists at the ceremony.
Levy Mwanawasa was sworn in as Zambia's third president amid frantic efforts by six opposition parties to seek court intervention to halt the ceremony. The High Court ruled that the aggrieved parties file a post-election petition within 14 days as required by law.
Opposition parties will no doubt pursue that and other courses. But petitions are long, extended processes that have a history of failure and tedium. It would be a historic first to achieve a reversal.
The new President said sternly, he would not tolerate civil disobedience campaigns planned by the losing candidates. The United Party for National Development (UPND), whose candidate Anderson Mazoka came closest to claiming the presidency, has teamed up with five others to push a multi-pronged agenda to challenge the results of what they claim to be a flawed election.
They have publicly exhibited ballot papers which they claim were handed them by sympathizers as evidence of extra-legal activities that facilitated an allegedly pre-planned rigging exercise. The opposition have reported conflicting figures from the field and at least two election officials have been arrested for violations.
The MMD dismisses their opponents as bad losers. Out-going president Frederick Chiluba, who has been accused of orchestrating this scheme, said the results are a true reflection of the people's wishes. Many of the allegations by the opposition are, however, supported by reports of the principal national election monitors and international observers.
The Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) said the 2001 elections " were not efficiently and successfully conducted. As a result, this has raised serious questions regarding the legitimacy and credibility of the election results."
FODEP President Dr. Alfred Chanda told a press Conference the "unfortunate" development had "created public contempt of the outcome of the election as evidenced by public demonstrations at a time the president-elect was being sworn in. That indicates the measure of legitimacy, or lack of it, of the just ended elections.
"The addition of ballot papers was generally done in a transparent manner. However, FODEP is still verifying some election result figures from the monitors and those announced by the Electoral Commission of Zambia which do not tally," he said.
The European Union (EU) which funded all political party agents to the tune of US$4 million to man polling stations in the country, including those from the ruling party, has sent its observers back to the field to undertake a final audit of this controversial outcome. FODEP said it discovered one case where results for a presidential candidate were wrongly entered as 955 instead of 3,955 votes.
"This could have been an innocent human error, but it exposed a possibility of deliberately doctoring the election results at the point of tallying election results. There are several figures that do not tally with the official results announced, and as I have said, FODEP is under-taking a reconciliation of election results," said Chanda.
The EU Chief Observer Michael Meadowcroft, who has come under fire from the Zambian government for his public criticism of the process, says, for example, that Kamfinsa constituency on the Copperbelt recorded 13, 000 votes in the presidential and only 4,000 in the parliamentary elections. Voters generally cast ballots for presidential, parliamentary and local government candidates. Meadowcroft describes the anomalies as "strange", adding that "if that kind of error can be made what else is there?"
The ECZ officials have offered no counter explanation to these allegations; senior officials were unavailable 24 hours after the inauguration to give the results for 13 of the 150 parliamentary constituencies still unannounced.
An impressive 70 percent of the 2.6 million registered voters turned up for the polls but the country of 11 million people has been left examining the efficacy of the "Simple Majority System" under a First-Past-The-Post model which allows for the election of a president with a minority vote.
The MMD sponsored legislation in 1996, amending the requirement for presidential candidates to be elected by "Absolute Majority", claiming at least 51 percent of the votes cast to be duly elected.
Ostensibly, analysts say, the move was to ensure that a possible strong challenge from former president Kenneth Kaunda and his United National Independence Party (UNIP) did not compromise an outright MMD victory.
The Simple Majority System has flaws: not only does it encourage the proliferation of presidential candidates, it yields, quite often, a president elected by a minority which then attracts charges of illegitimacy. This time round, Zambia is no exception.
By inauguration day, Mwanawasa had been elected by 28.7 percent of the voters while slightly over 71 percent chose from one of the 10 opposition candidates. Neutrals are blaming opposition parties for fragmenting ahead of the poll, allowing the ruling party to stage a come-back despite economic grievances expressed by a large number of the population.
In the end, the system, the contradictory arithmetic and the conduct of the poll rank highly in creating conditions for post-election chaos. FODEP is recommending the restoration of the Absolute Majority system which Zambia had used since independence from Britain in 1964.
"The presidency is a very serious position and anyone elected to it must enjoy mandate from a reasonably high number of voters. A situation where a President is elected by about 30 percent, as the case was during the last elections, does not give credibility to the office of the Republican Presidency", said Chanda.
The organization strongly criticized the use of the Office of the President in elections, saying the move was highly suspicious. It joined International and SADC Parliamentary Forum observers in criticizing the conduct of the public media which they all said favoured the MMD.
As though the disquiet with the mechanics of the whole process were not enough, nobody is really considering the seemingly failed attempt at gender balancing Zambia's parliament.
The Women's Lobby Group supported more than 200 female candidates to contest elections on various party tickets. By the last count only 11 had squeaked through. That is well below the 16 who made it to the last parliament. However, women could still pressurize the new president to reserve all eight nominated seats in the National Assembly, for them.
At presidential level, the two women who ran for the country's highest office, Gwendoline Konie of the Social Democratic Party(SDP) and Dr Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, failed dismally. Neither of them are part of the campaign to de-campaign the new government of Zambia.(SARDC).
This article can be reproduced with credit to SARDC and the author
Mail Editorial for comments and queries.