from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – THE Commonwealth has appealed for free and fair elections in Zambia next week.
Signs are high the August 12 polls will be disputed amid a run-up marred by violence.
Dr Jakaya Kikwete, the former President of Tanzania, is leading a group of eminent persons from across the Commonwealth to observe the elections.
Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, constituted the 14-member team of observers at the invitation of the government of Zambia.
An advance group of observers was deployed on July 25 while the rest of the team was expected in Lusaka from August 2.
Scotland said these electoral processes – despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic – in an inclusive, peaceful and credible manner would be a demonstration of Zambia’s enduring commitment as a Commonwealth member.
This would be in line with shared values of democracy, transparency, mutual respect and inclusiveness.
“As I indicated in my keynote address during the launch of the Coalition for Peaceful Elections in Zambia on 1 July, elections should be an opportunity to engage in political debate over issues and perspectives and not a platform for trading insults and blows.”
Scotland said for democracy to flourish, it was imperative that political parties and institutions embraced transparency, accountability, and respect for the rule of law.
Zambia, formerly known as Northern Rhodesia, joined the Commonwealth in 1964. It is a political association of 54 member states, almost all of which are former territories of the British Empire.
Zambian polls in recent years – including 2011 and 2016 – bred violence.
Next week’s exercise is again forecast to be a two-horse between incumbent Edgar Lungu and Hikande Hichilema and their Patriotic Party (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND).
On Sunday, Lungu deployed the army after weeks of deadly violence.
– CAJ News