Increased violence and suspected fraud
There are strong indications that the elections in Zambia last week was set up to benefit the ruling President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front. This says Patience Mususa, researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute, in an interview in the magazine ‘OmVärlden’.
With just over 50 percent of the votes, the set limit to avoid a second round of voting, Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu won a narrow election victory. The accusations of election fraud came shortly after Lungu had proclaimed victory. The opposition United Party for National Development led by Hakainde Hichilema has announced that they will appeal the election result.
“The Electoral Commission of Zambia is not entirely independent. The ruling party appoints its head”, says Mususa to the magazine ‘OmVärlden’.
There are many differences between the current election and previous elections. The counting of votes took much longer than usual. It took four days before the result was presented and normally it is official within 48 hours after all polls close. However, the harsh tone before, during and after the election is even more worrying.
“In comparison, elections in Zambia are relatively peaceful and democratic, but the rhetoric this year is harsher than usual and there has been reports of election related violence”, says Mususa, who connects the increased violence to the fact that it was a tightly contested race between the leading parties.
There was also more than usual at stake in this election.
Besides the election of president and parliament, there was also an election on a constitutional amendment to the bill of rights. The constitutional amendment included everything from progressive socio-economic reforms to the continued criminalization of homosexuality and a change to the ‘right of life’ that potentially makes abortion illegal.
“It was a mish mash of completely different propositions that the voters had to decide on a board. Many were for some propositions and against others, just like myself. There was no possibility to select and vote on a specific aspect of the bill; the only option was a collective yes or no. Moreover, there was little public discussion on the issues raised, which on their own are very complex. Many voters did not grasp if they were voting for or against the propositions”, says Mususa.
The result of the referendum on the constitutional amendment is yet to be announced.
Patience Mususa is senior researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute. She is Zambian and her research focuses on Zambia. She does research on urban planning, urbanization, mining and welfare development. Read the full interview with Patience Mususa at the website of OmVärlden (in Swedish).