18 April 2013

Zambia: Kapiri By-Elections Raise Concerns Over Vote Rigging

A Zambian non-governmental organisation says that is deeply concerned over signs that the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party may be preparing to rig the vote in the upcoming parliamentary by-election in Kapiri Mposhi in Central Province.

The by-election, which will take place on the 26th of April, was forced when a Supreme Court judge nullified the election of Lawrence Zimba, who originally ran on the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) ticket, and will contest the election again on the United Party for National Development (UPND) ticket.

But Zimba will face an uphill battle against the PF candidate Eddie Musonda, as the ruling party pours heavy spending into the district to secure another seat in the National Assembly. According to one NGO, there are even members from Vice President Guy Scott's office currently in Kapiri Mposhi posing as officers of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) with the possible goal of manipulating the results.

Novice Musonda, the Kapiri head for the Foundation for Democratic Processes (FODEP), says that about ten officials from the VP's office arrived to the district this week from the Copperbelt, Solwezi, Mkushi, and Serenje.

"Here in Kapiri we have officers from the vice president's office acting as electoral officers they are attending briefings and meetings which us stakeholders are not informed about," she said.

The Kapiri Mposhi by-election takes place on the same day as another by-election in Lukulu West in Western Province. Since coming into power in 2011, the PF has challenged a historic number of seats, and has succeeded in forcing more than 12 by-elections, which is the most votes Zambia has held in such a short period of time in its history.

In recent months, by-elections have been the scene of deadly violence, ethnic hate speech, and accusations exchanged between the competing parties over alleged fraud.

According one opposition campaigner interviewed for this article, the by-elections represent "a ruthless strategy" by the ruling party to "unlawfully manufacture an absolute 2/3rds majority in the parliament, giving them the powers to pass a new constitution and entrench their power in a new one-party state."

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