Zambia: Working towards fair and free elections
Unfortunately, fair and free elections are still a challenge on the African continent. Ruling parties only very reluctantly accept election defeats – if at all. The so-called ‘independence’ of election commissions is often a mere farce. Ensuring fair and free elections, of course has to begin way in advance of scheduled elections, ensuring the lawful division of electoral constituencies and the registration of parties and voters. On Election Day, both independent observers and representatives of all parties running in the election should monitor and confirm lawful procedures at the election polls.
Similar to the foundation’s efforts in West Africa the FNF Africa Regional Office supported its liberal political partner United Party for National Development (UPND) in Zambia in a series of ‘train the trainer’ seminars in election poll monitoring. Eighty candidates were pre-selected from UPND’s national, provincial, regional and district offices. These candidates will roll out a large-scale training programme of polling agents for the upcoming tripartite elections that are envisaged to take place in August or September 2011.
The tailor-made programme, which comes with international accreditation of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, United Nations and Australian Electoral Commission, to name a few, included technical legal knowledge on Zambian electoral law, skills training of applying the law, as well as general facilitation techniques. Furthermore, the participants were trained on methods to deal with any irregularities that may occur during the polling day procedures and report any improper conduct of the election officers in a lawful manner. The UPND has not been able to achieve the latter during the past elections due to lack of proper training.
The very able and enthused trainers are very well prepared for the challenge ahead and look forward to applying their knowledge appropriately and accordingly. Through the programme the UPND will be better geared to play its part in ensuring that the election process will be free and fair for all parties contesting in the elections. The programme was conducted in four provinces (Lusaka; Copperbelt; Southern and North Western), in the cities of Lusaka, Kitwe, Livingstone and Solwezi.
The UPND is a full member of the Africa Liberal Network (ALN). The party is ranked as the second party in opposition, and is preceded by the Patriotic Front as the main opposition. The UPND will challenge the ruling party Movement for Multiparty Democracy in the upcoming tripartite elections, promoting real change towards a liberal democracy and social and economic development.