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Foreign election observers should not be restricted on account of COVID-19

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Sean Tembo

As Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP), we wish to add our voice on the issue of foreign dignitaries coming to observe the 12th August general elections in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We are aware that some stakeholders have been advocating for the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to restrict the number of foreign electoral observers on the basis that they might increase the spread of Covid-19 in Zambia. We wish to make it categorically clear that we do not agree with such a position.

  1. As Patriots for Economic Progress our belief is that the 12th August general elections should not only be free and fair in fact, but they must also be free and fair in appearance. Ensuring unrestricted observation of the polls by foreign and local observers will give the perception that ECZ has nothing to hide, thereby increasing the credibility of the elections in the eyes of the general public, both local and foreign.

Restricting foreign observers will give the undue perception that ECZ is trying to hide something, and will only strengthen the arguments of those who wish to portray the upcoming general elections as already rigged.

Therefore, it is neither in the interests of ECZ nor the ruling Patriotic Front nor the opposition to restrict the ability of foreign observers to monitor the upcoming general elections.

  1. As Patriots for Economic Progress, we wish to take this opportunity to remind the Electoral Commission of Zambia that the 12th August polls are coming on the heels of the Ugandan general elections in which foreign observers were restricted from monitoring the elections using the excuse of Covid-19.

It must further be noted that the Ugandan general elections were generally seen as fraudulent by the international community. Therefore, if ECZ was to proceed to restrict foreign observers using the same excuse that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda used, the international community would possibly draw the conclusion that our general elections are as fraudulent as those of Uganda.

Such a situation would be very unfortunate. In as much as our democracy has some challenges, it is by far more credible than that of Uganda. Whereas we have had five peaceful transfers of power since independence, Uganda has had none.

The Electoral Commission of Zambia has an opportunity in this instance to show the region and the international community at large that our democracy is more vibrant than that of Uganda by allowing foreign observers to do their jobs unrestricted.

  1. As Patriots for Economic Progress, our view is that the excuse of Covid-19 as a basis for restricting foreign observers in the 12th August general elections is baseless and does not hold water. It must be noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has been raging across the world including Zambia, for more than a year now.

Zambia already has tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases of its own. The possibility that foreign observers would bring a few hundred cases of COVID-19 would not make much of a difference to our current infection levels as a country.

Besides, there are no existing travel restrictions to Zambia for foreigners coming to conduct different types of business. So why should there be a travel restriction specifically for foreigners coming to monitor the 12th August general elections?

  1. On a separate but related matter, we wish to inform the general public that further to our press statement on 3rd February 2021, in which we had given ECZ a 14 day ultimatum to allow an audit of the voters register, failure to which we would commence judicial review proceedings, we were subsequently engaged by the Electoral Commission of Zambia on the matter.

We received fruitful clarifications from the Chief Electoral Officer on 5th February 2021 regarding the roadmap for inspection and verification of the voters register.

Subsequent to this engagement, we have decided to withdraw our ultimatum to ECZ on this matter.

Suffice to mention that we shall continue to remain alert on issues related to the electoral process. We shall stand firm and challenge anyone whom seeks to undermine the electoral process, whether it be ECZ, PF, UPND or civil society. Zambians deserve a free and fair election and it is the duty of every citizen to see to it that this happens.

Thank You and May God Bless the Good Citizens of the Republic of Zambia and Our Ailing Nation.

YOURS SINCERELY

SEAN ENOCK TEMBO (SET)
PARTY PRESIDENT
PATRIOTS FOR ECONOMIC PROGRESS (PeP)

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