THE opposition UPND in Central Province has accused the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) of bias because it has allegedly allowed the Patriotic Front (PF) to be campaigning way ahead of the authorised period.
But ECZ public relations manager Cris Akufuna said the commission was not responsible for regulating campaigns outside the scheduled campaign period.
UPND Central Province chairman Albert Chifita has charged that the ruling party was in full campaign mode.
“We would like to register our disappointment with the ECZ for allowing the PF to be crisscrossing the country campaigning but we are denied permission. We would like the ECZ to censure the PF for premature campaigns,” he said.
But Mr Akufuna said that his organisation was not responsible for regulating campaigns outside the scheduled campaign period.
He said the ECZ Act was only effective when the campaign period commenced and anything outside that was a matter for the Public Order Act.
“It’s outside our mandate to regulate campaigns outside the campaign window because that is a matter of the Public Order Act,” Mr. Akufuna said.
He said the elections body had published and distributed the campaign timetable and it was therefore incumbent upon parties to observe it. Mr Akufuna also said that even during the campaign period, the ECZ had limited powers on those who breached the Electoral Code of Conduct as it could not punish anyone but merely advise.
He expressed hope that with the amended Constitution in place, the status of the ECZ would be looked at.
“At the moment, we cannot penalise anyone even if we saw a breach of the electoral code during its time in force. This is the more reason why we remain optimistic that the shortcomings will be addressed especially now that the Constitution has been amended,” Mr. Akufuna said.
Meanwhile, PF Central Province chairperson Benson Chali has dismissed the UPND allegations.
Mr. Chali instead accused the UPND of launching premature campaigns.
“UPND are not being truthful because PF is not campaigning anywhere in Central Province and above all in the country. I challenge Mr. Chifita to provide evidence where PF is campaigning. Instead, it’s UPND members who are campaigning as evidenced by the recent visit of the party’s president Hakainde Hichilema and his deputy Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba,” Mr. Chali said.
Last week, Mr. Hichilema and Mr Mwamba were in Kabwe and held meetings in Mine compound, Ngungu and in town centre at the Hindu hall.
Mr. Mwamba proceeded to address some more party meetings in Kapiri Mposhi before heading to the Copperbelt Province where he further held some more meetings in Mpongwe and Kitwe.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chali has disclosed that his party had received overwhelming response from various people who have applied to contest on the PF ticket in the forthcoming general elections.
He could however not give statistics saying that the process was still with constituency structures.
Mr Chali expressed optimism of his party’s victory in the elections.