Zambia’s election watchdog threatens to ban parties

By Francis Maingaila

LUSAKA, Zambia (AA) – Zambia’s political parties were threatened with bans Friday following violence between opposing supporters in the run-up to next month’s elections.

The Electoral Commission of Zambia also warned candidates they could be barred from standing if they are found to be inciting or taking part in violence.

“It is not the wish of the commission to disqualify political parties or candidates from taking part in an election but if the violent activities continue… the commission will have no option but to invoke the electoral laws and disqualify erring parties and candidates,” commission Chairman Esau Chulu said.

The weeks leading up to the Aug. 11 presidential, parliamentary and local polls have been marked by clashes between the supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).

On July 9, campaigning was suspended in the capital Lusaka by the commission following PF-UPND confrontations that left four dead. “We don’t want this to happen either in the remaining campaigns days before the elections or after the elections,” Chulu said.

He added that campaigning had also been suspended in Namwala district, southern province, after outbreaks of violence.

The disqualification of a party would mean all its candidates — from the presidential hopeful to local government candidates — would be barred from standing for election.

Chulu said it was the responsibility of all political parties to ensure the campaigns are held in a peaceful atmosphere.

“As for the Zambia police, the commission would like to see that the police apply the POA [Public Order Act] fairly as they maintain law and order ahead of the general elections in August,” he added.

“We believe the selective application of the POA is partly to blame for the violence being witnessed in some parts of the country.”