Elections should reflect people’s will – VJ

By Staff Reporter

 

Veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga says elections must always produce results which are a true reflection of the people’s will.

In a statement, Mwaanga indicated that in a democracy, the authority of those in government was derived solely from the consent of the governed and the principal mechanism for translating that consent into governmental authority, was the periodic holding of free, fair and credible elections, whose outcome must always reflect the true wishes of the people.

Mwaanga said democratic elections should not be merely symbolic but competitive, inclusive, free from rigging and violence, where decision makers in government or in the opposition are genuinely and freely selected by citizens without intimidation or cohesion.

“Those in the opposition who challenge those in government, must enjoy the freedom of speech and movement to campaign freely, criticise government policies and offer alternatives. It is not enough to simply allow opposition parties access to the ballot. Elections in which the opposition is barred access to the media, particularly the state media, has its rallies prevented by force, blacked out and denied newspaper coverage or censored, cannot be described free, fair or democratic,” Mwaanga advised.

 

He said while those in power may enjoy the advantages of incumbency, the rules governing the conduct of democratic elections must be applied fairly to all participants without exception.

Mwaanga said leaders elected should always be accountable to the people as they were always required at periodic intervals to seek their mandate to continue in office.

“What this means in essence is that, public officials in a functioning democracy, must accept the risk of being voted out of office. Usually, this happens when there are unpopular policies, corruption, incompetence or inability to keep election campaign promises,” he said. “Renewal of political leadership from time to time is healthy and even desirable”.

He said democracies were supposed to thrive on openness and accountability where voters were permitted to cast their votes in secret.

“Here is the troubling part, which has been a source of suspicion and even conflict in many countries in Africa, including Zambia, the tallying of vote totals which is done in secret,” he observed.

Mwaanga proposed that tallying of votes must be conducted as openly as possible, so that citizens and participating candidates and political parties, feel confident that the results announced were accurate and reflect the true wishes of the people.

Ho noted that countries like Nigeria, had opened up their electoral process since 2015, benefitting largely from the recommendations of the Electoral Reforms Technical Committee of Zambia, which was critical as it meant that all sides in a democracy must share a common commitment to basic values.

“Political competitor s be they from the Patriotic Front (PF), UPND, NAREP, ADD, DP, MMD, etc, don’t have to like each other, but they must tolerate one another and acknowledge that each has a legitimate and important role to play,” he stated. “Our society must promote and encourage civility and tolerance in public affairs”.

Mwaanga said the violence witnessed in Sesheke and Lundazi was a bad advert for a nascent democracy and should not be tolerated under any circumstances where pangas, machetes etc, should have no room in an electoral process as it was a disgrace.

He expressed optimism that when the electoral process becomes more transparent, public confidence in election management bodies would grow and would also ensure that when the elections are over, losers would accept the results more readily.

“Those who lose transparent elections will be encouraged to continue participating in public affairs and in the wider political process of the country, in the knowledge that their role of holding the government accountable is vital in a democratic society,” he observed. “Democratic elections are after all, are not a fight for life or death survival, but a mere competition to serve your country and people”.

He said candidates for political elective office must be free to campaign and voters must have the freedom to cast their votes without intimidation, threats or any form of violence.