Freedom House Concerned About Electoral Violence in Zambia
Freedom House is concerned about rising inter-party tensions and pre-election violence during Zambian by-elections and calls on all parties to respect the rule of law and encourage their members to engage in peaceful and lawful campaigning. All stakeholders are obligated to ensure the electoral environment is free from intimidation and violence before truly credible elections can take place.
The Zambian government recently announced that parliamentary by-elections in the southern city of Livingstone had been postponed following increase violence between party supporters. In recent days local media and observers on the ground have reported increasingly fractious contestations between supporters of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) and ruling Patriotic Front (PF) parties, who both have candidates running in the election. Latest developments include the arrest of several prominent opposition leaders, including the President of the UPND, in the wake of the death of a member of the PF party. The parliamentary seat in Livingstone became vacant after the sitting opposition Member of Parliament resigned his from party.
In 2011, Zambia held country-wide elections that resulted in a peaceful transition of power to the Patriotic Front party and marked a significant watershed in the deepening of Zambia’s electoral democracy. These elections were applauded by Zambian and international observers for producing a result that reflected the will of the people and that was accepted by all parties. Escalating tension during recent by-elections in Zambia, and in particular the developments in the run-up to the Livingstone by-election puts in jeopardy the significant progress made to date. This violence risks reopening Zambia’s electoral system to regularized incidences of violence and undue influence upon the voting population. Politically motivated violence must cease if Zambia is to continue on the path toward democratic consolidation.
Zambia is rated Partly Free in Freedom House's Freedom in the World 2013 and Freedom of the Press 2012 surveys.
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