THE Patriotic Front (PF) and the United Party for National Development (UPND) are both claiming that they have won the Tuesday presidential election; defying orders from the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) against declaring themselves winners before the Commission announces the results.
UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema yesterday declared that “this is our election” while PF president Edgar Lungu said the ruling party was poised to win the presidential election, hence the panic by the opposition political party to resort to “tactics of intimidating” ECZ officials.
But ECZ chairperson Irene Mambilima has warned that political parties and other interest groups announcing and declaring results were committing a criminal offence because it was the mandate of the commission to announce and declare election results.
Mr Hichilema yesterday held a meeting with ECZ officials at which he said he raised a number of concerns which included the inability by the commission to deliver polling materials and staff to polling stations that were his stronghold.
He said while he was aware that ECZ had logistical and constitutional limitations to effectively discharge its mandate, the UPND was deeply concerned that there were attempts to disenfranchise some citizens via the non-delivery of polling materials and personnel.
Mr Hichilema said his decision to meet ECZ officials was prompted by the realization that some polling stations had not received materials and only started voting yesterday which he said was not normal. He said poor democratic process had the potential to cause conflict which if not controlled could promote extremism which should never be allowed in a peaceful country like Zambia.
Mr Hichilema said democratic space in Zambia had over the three years been shrinking, recalling that he had been a victim of the Public Order Act (POA) which saw him getting arrested nine times.
“Suppression of citizens’ rights combined with lack of democratic process can easily promote extremism. If elections are not fair, you create conflict which leads to the breakdown of the rule of law. It is important to ensure that we have democratic space but we understand the limitations of the ECZ. Justice Mambilima is an excellent and professional lady but she is operating under difficult circumstances and she cannot be blamed. Our concern was that more than 50 polling stations are still voting because of the inability by ECZ to deliver polling materials and personnel which we feel is not normal,” Mr Hichilema said.
Mr Hichilema later addressed his supporters who had gathered at the entrance of Mulungushi Conference Centre and told them to be clam because their concerns had been addressed.
But PF president Edgar Lungu through his secretary general Davis Chama said the UPND leader was panicking because of the impending defeat he was going to suffer after the announcement of the results. Mr Lungu said Mr Hichilema caused the suspension of the announcement of the results because the opposition leader had realized that he had lost the election.
Mr Lungu who is Defence and Justice minister has appealed to his supporters to remain clam as they waited for the announcement of the full results because the PF president was ahead in the results that had so far been announced.
He said Mr Hichilema had realized that he had lost the presidential election and was allegedly acting irresponsibly by demanding the suspension of announcing of the results.
“Anxiety is rising among our supporters and among the UPND members as well who are now reported protesting alleging that ECZ was planning to rig the vote. The suspension of announcing results has been done at the request of Mr Hichilema but he has neglected to inform his followers. We call upon the UPND leader to advise his supporters to remain calm. As the results are trickling in, the reality of the impending defeat has dawned on Mr Hichilema and he is now attempting to inflame people’s emotions,” Mr Lungu said.
But Justice Mambilima said political parties should keep their results to themselves and should ensure that their cadres were confined to their camps.
Justice Mambilima said the political violence the country has witnessed during the campaigns was being perpetrated by the PF and the UPND and appealed to the two political parties to cage their cadres.