This statement is The Carter Center's third public statement on the Zambian electoral process. The first was a pre-election statement released on December 13, 2001. The second was an interim post-election statement on December 30, 2001.
The pre-election statement drew attention to the several areas of concern including the lack of transparency in the administration of the electoral process, lack of a level playing field for all political contestants, and the need to reduce barriers for participation in the process.
In the first interim post-election statement, the Center commended Zambians for the peaceful conduct of the elections, the professionalism displayed by election staff in the polling stations, and high voter turnout. All of these elements are a true expression of Zambians' commitment to exercise their democratic right to elect freely their government representatives.
However, the post-election statement also highlighted several serious deficiencies in the administration of the election process by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), including the lengthy voting process, the lack of security of the ballot, and the lack of transparency and timeliness in vote tabulation and release of election results.
In the post-election period from December 30, 2001 to the present, the Center has observed the ongoing tabulation and verification processes, the petition process, the appointment of the new government and the establishment of the Third Republic's parliament. The Center's long-term observers have continued to meet with all stakeholders in the post-election period.
On January 23, 2002, the Center began a post-election assessment mission headed by Ambassador Gordon Streeb who heads the Peace Program of the Center, and who previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to Zambia (1990-1993).
The Center's overall conclusions and recommendations are still pending the final resolution of some of the outstanding electoral issues, particularly the court petitions. Therefore the Center is not prepared to make a final statement at this time. All outstanding issues should be resolved quickly so that the government and parliament can work constructively in Zambia's new pluralistic, multiparty democratic environment.
The Carter Center will continue to observe the post-election phase and issue a final statement as well as a full report that comprehensively reviews the entire electoral process and provides recommendations for possible reforms.
As international observers we do not have any intention to enter into Zambia's internal political debates, as it is Zambians who are the ultimate judge of the legitimacy of the electoral process. Our comments should be viewed in light of our commitment to strengthening democratic institutions.
The Center is concerned about the tense post-election environment in which the opposition and government appear to be moving down two separate paths. To improve the situation, the Center urges that the following issues be addressed to provide a foundation for constructive governance in Zambia's new pluralistic, multiparty framework:
- The ECZ should take responsibility for overseeing and ensuring the prompt verification of results in a transparent manner and publicize the election results by polling station, nationwide. The ECZ should examine and explain all anomalies and inaccuracies in the release of results to guarantee the accuracy of its published figures;
- The Supreme Court and High Court should address expeditiously the petitions filed by political parties and investigate complaints comprehensively to ensure that constitutional rights have been fully protected;
- Ruling and opposition parties should respect the mandate given by the voters of Zambia for the government and parliament to work constructively in a pluralistic multiparty political environment to improve the lives of Zambians.
Verification of Results
The Center believes it is essential to address the problems and discrepancies that have been identified by parties and observers regarding the tabulation and verification processes, and urges the ECZ, the government, and the courts to address these issues immediately as a means of resolving outstanding disputes about the election results and the legitimacy of the new government. Lingering uncertainty about the accuracy of the tabulation and verification processes stand as a barrier to good governance. Among the issues to be addressed are the following:
- Large variations between the number of votes cast for presidential and parliamentary candidates that occurred in approximately 22 constituencies;
- The unusually high number of constituencies, 83 of 150, where no invalid ballots whatsoever were recorded in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections;
- Discrepancies between the figures obtained from election officials at the constituency level based on polling station results, and the figures published by the ECZ, for instance, discrepancies found by Carter Center observers in 12 constituencies in the Copperbelt and Central Provinces;
- Unexplained large discrepancies found between the original Ndola constituency results and the results announced following the completion of the verification process.
- Inaccuracies in some of the ECZ's published provisional results, for example, constituency level results where individual candidate's vote totals do not equal the overall sum of valid votes cast.
In elections such as this one where the margin of victory is small, such discrepancies take on greater significance. Cumulatively, the discrepancies may have a major impact on the election results and even affect the outcome, and therefore must be examined seriously.
Petitions. As the Court acts on the petitions submitted by opposition parties, the Center expects the independence of the judiciary will be fully respected and that all complaints relating to the elections results will be thoroughly reviewed with all deliberate speed. The legitimacy of the government depends on it. To facilitate the Courts' review and timely rulings, the ECZ needs to release expeditiously the final election results at all levels, including polling stations.
Pluralistic Multiparty Political Environment. As evidenced by the preliminary election results, no single party or candidate received an actual majority of the votes. While some view the election results as revealing divisions among the Zambian population, the Center believes that the results demonstrate popular support for multiparty democracy. In this context, the Center urges the government and opposition parties to begin to work together in the interest of the Zambian people within the new pluralistic democratic framework.
For more information about The Carter Center, its election-monitoring activities and its earlier statements on the Zambian tripartite elections, please see the Center's Web site at http://www.cartercenter.org .