The peo­ple’s will must pre­vail in Zam­bia

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

ABOUT 1,8 mil­lion of 3,3 mil­lion reg­is­tered vot­ers in Sadc’s fourth old­est democ­racy, Zam­bia, went to the polls in a gen­eral elec­tion on Thurs­day to elect a pres­i­dent, their leg­is­la­tors and coun­cil­lors. By 20:23PM yes­ter­day the in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu of the Pa­tri­otic Front (PF) had, ac­cord­ing to the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion of Zam­bia (ECZ), polled 955 035 votes to main­tain a slen­der lead over his main ri­val Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for Na­tional De­vel­op­ment who had 840 232 votes.

The con­test is a two-horse race, a re-match be­tween the pro­tag­o­nists who squared up in a pres­i­den­tial by-elec­tion held in Oc­to­ber 2014 to re­place the then Pres­i­dent, Michael Sata, who had died. In that elec­tion, Pres­i­dent Lungu beat Mr Hichilema by 27 757 votes.

This time, the out­come is likely to be just as nar­row. The ECZ tally showed that Pres­i­dent Lungu had gained 50,77 per­cent of the vote with Mr Hichilema trail­ing at 44,67 per­cent. Both are con­fi­dent they would win the elec­tion in which the es­ti­mated turnout was about 57 per­cent — far higher than last year. Long queues and no ma­jor vi­o­lence were noted on vot­ing day.

Nine peo­ple are seek­ing the pres­i­dency. Apart from the two main con­tenders one in­ter­est­ing can­di­date is Ti­lyenji Kaunda, son to Zam­bia’s found­ing Pres­i­dent, Ken­neth Kaunda who is lead­ing the party of in­de­pen­dence, the United Na­tional In­de­pen­dence Party. The younger Kaunda was last night in dis­tant sixth place with 4 944 votes.

The win­ning pres­i­den­tial can­di­date must re­ceive more than 50 per­cent of the valid votes cast and if none of them does, a run off would be held, fea­tur­ing the two with the high­est votes. How­ever, judg­ing from the mood in the PF, Pres­i­dent Lungu is keen to set­tle the con­test in the first round.

Full re­sults were ex­pected by Fri­day or Satur­day. This has prompted the op­po­si­tion to com­plain about the late­ness in the re­lease of the fi­nal re­sult, al­leg­ing that the ECZ was tin­ker­ing with the figures to give the elec­tion to Pres­i­dent Lungu, a claim his party re­jects.

The run-up to Thurs­day was gen­er­ally calm with all par­ties cam­paign­ing freely although vi­o­lence flared up later on.

Zam­bia is a friendly neigh­bour of ours and re­la­tions be­tween our two coun­tries are ex­tremely solid. The re­la­tions go deeper than the gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment level as they run down to a peo­ple-to-peo­ple ba­sis. Zim­bab­weans and Zam­bians have a lot in com­mon and their peo­ple are one. No Zim­bab­wean would for­get the sac­ri­fices that Zam­bians made dur­ing our lib­er­a­tion strug­gle when Lusaka hosted thou­sands of lib­er­a­tion fighters who pros­e­cuted the war from that coun­try. As a re­sult of that, Zam­bia, un­der Pres­i­dent Kaunda suf­fered huge losses in reprisal as­saults by the then Rhode­sian regime of Ian Smith but would not be de­terred.

There­fore, Zim­bab­weans wish Zam­bia well and ap­peal to them to main­tain the calm and pa­tience as they wait for the full re­sults to be re­leased. Ev­ery­one of them should re­spect the out­come of the poll. The losers must ac­cept de­feat and wait for next time and win­ners should cel­e­brate re­spon­si­bly and be­gin the work to ad­vance the so­cio-economic de­vel­op­ment of that great coun­try.

The Chris­tian Churches Mon­i­tor­ing Group, which has ob­servers across the coun­try, urged Zam­bians to main­tain peace.

“We ap­peal to all Zam­bians, re­gard­less of their af­fil­i­a­tion to re­main peace­ful, to re­ject vi­o­lence,” the group said in a state­ment.

“Zam­bia is not a new democ­racy and should be a model to the re­gion and be­yond.”

An EU mon­i­tor­ing team also voiced concern about the vi­o­lence in the run-up to the vote, which led to cam­paign­ing be­ing sus­pended for 10 days — a move which the ob­servers said had ham­pered smaller par­ties run­ning for of­fice.

The Com­mon­wealth Ob­server Group led by for­mer Tan­za­nia Pres­i­dent, Mr Jakaya Kik­wete, en­dorsed the con­duct of the elec­tions.

“Our over­all con­clu­sion is that the vot­ing, clos­ing and count­ing process at the polling sta­tions on 11 Au­gust, were cred­i­ble and trans­par­ent,” said Mr Kik­wete.

“It is the Com­mon­wealth’s hope and ex­pec­ta­tion that this spirit of or­der­li­ness, tol­er­ance and peace, which has char­ac­terised the vot­ing process, will pre­vail as the re­sults phase con­tin­ues. We urge all po­lit­i­cal par­ties and can­di­dates to re­spect the will of the peo­ple of Zam­bia as it emerges over the next few days, and to seek re­dress for any griev­ances through peace­ful di­a­logue, and through pre­scribed le­gal chan­nels. This is the Zam­bian Con­sti­tu­tional way. It is also the Com­mon­wealth way. We re­it­er­ate the ap­peal we made to all Zam­bians, in the joint state­ment by African and In­ter­na­tional Elec­tion Ob­ser­va­tion Mis­sions on 10 Au­gust 2016, to re­frain from mak­ing any ut­ter­ances and/or per­form­ing acts that could trig­ger ten­sions and neg­a­tively af­fect the post-elec­tion en­vi­ron­ment.”

We have no doubt that Zam­bians will continue on the peace­ful path they have been over the past 52 years of in­de­pen­dence, that of al­ways sub­or­di­nat­ing them­selves to their con­sti­tu­tion and the rule of law.

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