THE violence that preceded the general elections painted a grim picture about Zambia’s democratic process, says Zambia Centre for Inter-Party Dialogue (ZCID) member Angelica Ramsey.
Ms Ramsey, who is also FDD national chairperson, however said the ZCID team which observed last week’s general elections found that the electoral process was peaceful on the polling day and after.
Speaking at a media briefing in Lusaka yesterday, Ms Ramsey said there was need to invest more efforts in educating political party ranks and file about the principles of democratic co-existence.
She said ECZ always tried to engage the stakeholders and this contributed to enhancing transparency of the electoral process and it must be commended. However, sensitization on the referendum and the 50 plus one presidential threshold was inadequate.
Ms Ramsey said the 2016 general elections met most of the benchmarks of democratic elections.
But the team observed with sadness the ugly scenes pf violence that took place during the run-up to the elections and particularly in Lusaka, although the country was generally peaceful.
Ms Ramsey said defacing and tearing of opponent’s campaign posters was widespread to the extent that smaller parties that were not capable of challenging bigger parties were blacked out by the bigger parties.
She said the team also noted with sadness the unfriendly campaign messages used by political party stewards, which included hate speech and negative stereotyping, a tendency which should be stopped as a matter of urgency.
Ms Ramsey commended political parties for the increase in the number of trained poll agents deployed on polling day.
However the elections exposed unprecedented levels of regional voting, she said. Ms Ramsey said although there was nothing wrong with anyone supporting someone from a particular region, the extent of block voting was worrying.
She said Government must discourage the democratic system becoming regionalized and condemned the reprisal attacks that followed the announcement of the presidential results.
The inter-party dialogue team also charged that there was a selective and often biased application of the Public Order Act against the opposition.