Carter Center Commends Zambians for a Successful Election Despite Unlevel Playing Field

Read the report (PDF)

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA (Aug. 23, 2020) — The Carter Center today released its preliminary report on Zambia’s Aug. 12 general elections, which were successful despite the unlevel playing field and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Carter Center commends voters, polling officials, civil society, national observation organizations, and party agents for their democratic commitment during election day and throughout the post-election period. However, the mission notes that despite recurrent pledges of peaceful conduct from key stakeholders, the electoral process was tainted by instances of violence that resulted in the loss of lives.

The campaign environment was marked by increasing polarization and an unlevel playing field that limited the United Party for National Development’s constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of movement and association while the ruling Patriotic Front party’s activities went largely unrestricted. In that context, the Center also notes that the deployment of the army on Aug. 1 lacked constitutional basis because it was not an action dictated by public emergency or national disasters.

The campaign was characterized by clear pro-government bias in state-owned media, whose online accounts also repeatedly broadcast political disinformation. The online campaign was marred by significant obstacles to participation, culminating in the imposition of blanket online communications restrictions that started on election day and lasted more than 48 hours. Online freedom of expression was thereby subjected to historically unprecedented limits in Zambia.

It is unfortunate that despite constitutional provisions for gender equity in the National Assembly and local councils, women’s participation and representation in Zambia remain below international and regional standards. Political participation was restricted by prohibitive candidacy fees and a minimum education requirement that disproportionately affected women, as well as by the lack of compliance with progressive regulations on the part of the government and political parties and by gaps in the overall regulatory framework.

The Carter Center extends its congratulations to President-elect Hakainde Hichilema and welcomes his strong call for peace and reconciliation. The Center also praises incumbent President Edgar C. Lungu for conceding swiftly, allowing for a peaceful transition of power.

Background: The Carter Center deployed an international election expert mission to Lusaka on July 23 to assess the electoral process surrounding Zambia’s Aug. 12 general elections. The mission was accredited by the Electoral Commission of Zambia and will continue working to assess the post-electoral environment, including electoral dispute resolution, through the end of September. Approximately two months after the conclusion of the electoral process, The Carter Center will provide a more detailed final report on key critical pre- and post-election issues, including possible appeals. The final report will include recommendations for future elections based on the experts’ analysis.

The mission, which is composed of four international experts and a local analyst, initiated their work remotely in mid-July. Because of the mission’s limited size and scope, it was unable to assess the full electoral process or to conduct a robust assessment of the voting, counting, and tabulation processes surrounding election day. Instead, the mission focused on several key aspects of the Zambian electoral process, including the legal and electoral framework; the effectiveness and transparency of electoral preparations; the campaign environment, including freedom of the media; respect for core participatory rights; the use of social media; and disinformation and misinformation trends.

Preliminary Report | Carter Center Electoral Expert Mission to Zambia's August General Elections (PDF)          


Contact: In Atlanta, Soyia Ellison, associate communications director,
In Lusaka, Kakai Kissinger, electoral expert team lead, 

The Carter Center
Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.