SADC launches observer mission to Zambia's election
afrol News/sardc.net, 23 October
- The first group of election observers from southern Africa has arrived in Zambia to observe the presidential elections scheduled for 30 October.
At least 25 election observers from Southern African Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission (SEOM) had arrived in Lusaka as of 14 October and were dispatched to different provinces with assistance of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).
In total, SADC is expected to have more than 100 observers coming from its 15 member states.
John Kunene, Swaziland Permanent Secretary for Defence who is heading SEOM, said regional observers were arriving in groups and final deployment is expected on 25 October.
“In compliance with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, the first team of electoral observers arrived in Zambia on 14 October 2008,” Mr Kunene said.
He said deployment of other observers would be done after necessary administrative arrangements had been finalised.
Mr Kunene also said SEOM was in Zambia not to manage electoral process, but to observe management and conduct of elections.
“Observing the presidential election in Zambia will enable SADC to consolidate, defend and maintain democracy in the region so that citizens can realise and enjoy peace, security and political stability,” he said.
SEOM was confident that tradition of peace encapsulated in the political maturity and tolerance among Zambians will guide the nation as it enters polls end of the month.
SADC observer mission will not operate in isolation but will “cooperate, interact and maintain consistent working relations” with local electoral authorities and various government institutions including other missions deployed in the country.
“We know our responsibilities and we will confine ourselves within our mandate so that our mission retains its credibility role as has been the case in other similar missions,” said Mr Kunene.
SEOM is backed by Article 5 of the SADC Treaty that outlines objectives of SADC in which member states are committed to promotion of common political values and systems.
SADC Executive Secretary, Tomaz Salomão, noted that it was important for presidential candidates in Zambia, SADC leadership and Africa to continue setting an example of political maturity and practices in elections.
“The presidential candidates must be committed to democratic norms and principles. They must be able to continue setting a good example of political maturity and democracy on the continent so that the people can realise and enjoy peace, security and political stability,” said Mr Salomão.
He further said region is making strides in strengthening citizens’ participation in decision-making processes and consolidation of democracy.
“In a democracy, there should be no enemies but competitors and therefore compatriots. It is a game in which players propose in different ways how to manage the lives and livelihood of people,” he said.
The 30 October presidential poll will see four candidates running for office of president following death of Levy Mwanawasa on 19 August.
Candidates are Mr Rupiah Banda representing ruling party, and leaders of opposition parties, Michael Sata, Hakainde Hichilema and Godfrey Miyanda.
Several other opposition parties withdrew from the race and decided to back Banda, who is standing on the ticket of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).
There are no major surprises among candidates. Perhaps the only newcomer to the presidential race is Banda who was chosen by MMD in September as their candidate for the election.
The other candidates - Sata of main opposition Patriotic Front (PF), Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) and Miyanda of Heritage Party (HP) - are not strangers to Zambia presidential contest.
In the 2006 September presidential poll, MMD garnered 42.98 percent of total votes winning the presidency while Sata came second with 29.37 percent.
Hichilema came third with 25 percent of vote and Miyanda came fourth with 1.57 percent.
Zambia has invited other regional and sub-regional organisations to observe this month’s presidential elections.
Apart from SADC, other African regional organisations invited include Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Economic Community of West African States, Pan-African Parliament, Economic Community of Central African States, East African Community, and Maghreb Union.
International bodies invited include Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) bloc, Non-Aligned Movement, Association of South East Asian Nations and European Union.
Zambia has 3.9 million registered voters, and ECZ says it will be using 2006 voters’ roll due to time limitations to conduct a fresh list.
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