The Zambian response
The Commission's independence
Rural and urban experiences
The political parties
The current situation
- We have "legitimate concerns" about "certain results" and "concerns about election results generally";
- We have concerns "over the reliability of some of the figures" and are looking into "apparent discrepancies".
- Some unprecedented incidences "create an environment conducive to election rigging";
- The "2001 elections were not efficiently and successfully conducted" and "this has raised serious questions regarding the legitimacy and credibility of the election results."
These, I believe, fairly represent the conclusions reached on the election by the four organisations and I have, I suggest, arranged them in order of their trenchancy. Interestingly, it was  that attracted immediate strong criticism from the Government, and not  or . You may have guessed by now that the second statement above was made by the EU Election Observation Mission (EUEOM), whereas the third and fourth were made by Coalition 2001 and FODEP respectively. For the record, the first came from the Carter Centre.
The Zambian response
This illustrates one of the difficulties that the EUEOM has faced in Zambia. The Government and the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) have sought to discredit its work by alleging colonial bias rather than by confronting its evidence and its conclusions. I find this sad, particularly given my own personal experience of fighting colonialism. I discovered, for instance, when invited by the ANC, in late 1990, to participate in seminars on electoral systems for the new South Africa, that I was still on the banned list there from the apartheid era. And in some thirty-five missions in twenty-five other countries, I have never had an attack based on an alleged motivation. Criticism and debate I welcome, of course, but this is different.
It is the wish of the Government of the Republic of Zambia that monitors and observers from the European Union are present in Zambia in order to share its democratic electoral process and to give their considered and professional opinion on the election.
The EUEOM has sought at all times to respond to the terms of that invitation. We have produced objective and factual reports and our conclusions have always been based on evidence. Indeed, although we have, of course, listened to all the numerous representations made to us, we have rigorously excluded from our reports all those items which could not be sustained for lack of formal proof, even though, as in the case of vote card buying, promises of cheap houses, provision of mealie-meal etc, some were supported by considerable circumstantial evidence.
Our two interim statements, covering the voter registration process and the pre-count and tabulation period respectively, set out carefully the relevant evidence and drew direct conclusions from it. I have always been open to representations from those who would wish to present evidence that the DAs were not acting politically, or that the government media were not biased, or that the GRZ registrations on vehicles used in campaigning were not from the government.
The European Union and the EU Member States between them contributed over 12 million euros to the Zambian electoral process. The largest portion of this went directly to the ECZ and the agreement between the EU and the GRZ regarding this assistance and also for the support for an observer mission, was signed in November 2000. In theory disbursement of the main sums under the agreement was only to take place when three main criteria had been met:
- enhancement of public confidence in the election process and the ECZ;
- adherence to good practices and promotion of a "levelled" playing field;
- increased voter participation
In the end, as the EC Delegation stated in a public advertisement earlier this year, it was felt necessary to go ahead in good faith in order that the electoral process was not held up. However, it should be noted that it was the Zambian government which signed up to the three criteria and by which therefore its performance is entitled to be judged. If a "balance sheet" were to be drawn up on the three points I doubt whether it would show the GRZ in a favourable light.
However, the key problem in elections is never the government but how the government is constrained. All governments everywhere seek to manipulate elections; it goes with the territory. In the North of England, for instance, there is a huge bridge across the Humber river. It is a very beautiful bridge but, unfortunately, it is greatly underused. This bridge was built to win a by-election, not even a general election. So, in every country the voters have to rely on their electoral commission to enforce laws and codes of conduct to ensure acceptable levels of fairness. And this is the problem here in Zambia: the ECZ does not, or cannot, enforce its own laws. Even worse, it sees those, such as the EU EOM, who seek to be partners in the great enterprise of ensuring the best possible elections, as enemies rather than allies.
This is not usual. In neighbouring Malawi, for instance, where I had a similar role in 1994 for the first multiparty elections, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs Justice Msosa, and I worked together solidly whenever necessary. If there was a particular problem with the government she would call me and we would discuss how we could resolve it by the different means open to each of us. This worked well and the election results in Malawi were immediately accepted.
Here, we have the opposite, including a "Tax on Observation". To charge international observers for observing is bad enough in principle - we want to be partners not clients - but to impose a charge of US$18,000 on FODEP to do its beneficial civic duty is calculated to arouse suspicions of why the ECZ wishes to inhibit such a respected and effective local NGO.
Even when the ECZ did something excellent it didn't advertise it. For instance, given the sophisticated and aware audience at this Round Table, how many of you realised that on 31 August last year the ECZ passed a Statutory Instrument which effectively undermined all vote card buying? The document in question reads:
Where a voter's card is lost, destroyed or is so defaced as to be intelligible in any material particular, the voter concerned shall deliver the duplicate copy of form RV1 issued at registration time to the presiding officer at the time the voter applies for a ballot paper.
The ECZ - rightly - took out many full page advertisements in the newspapers on numerous topics but I do not recall this vital ruling ever being publicised. Consequently, in general, neither voter nor presiding officer was aware of the possibility of voting with only the RV1 and NRC if the individual was already on the voters' register.
The Commission's independence
The ECZ had an excellent opportunity to promote its independence ten days before polling day when it was taken to court by the NGO, the Zambia Reconstruction Organisation (ZAMRO). ZAMRO asked for an injunction to prevent the ECZ charging a fee for observers. However, instead of defending the issue raised, the ECZ argued that it could not be sued as it was "an arm of the Government". The judge agreed and in his judgement went further and stated:
Looking at the structure of the Commission, having regard to the principle of "Control Test", it is clear that the Commission falls under the Executive arm of the Government since its operation and appointment of officers of the Commission can be determined by the President of the Republic of Zambia, the Chief Executive of the State. So its autonomy referred to does not confer the Executive powers outside the structure of the Government.
I find the implications of this judicial opinion disturbing but I have seen no published rectification of it on the part of the ECZ. Bringing the case had an additional penalty for ZAMRO. The NGO had been a founder member of the ECZ' National Committee for Civic Education (NVEC) and was fully involved in its work, being particularly responsible for the outreach into Central province. However, the day after the case was heard, ZAMRO was "excommunicated" from NVEC and barred from any further participation. Not a particularly good example of pluralism nor of an acceptance of opposition.
Rural and urban experiences
I want briefly to contrast reports of polling day in rural areas with what I observed in Lusaka. There appeared to be two quite different elections proceeding and many - though by no means all - of the reports that came in from observers in rural areas were of calm, quiet, "normal" elections, with one exception: the excessively long queues that pertained at every polling station with more than 750 voters. However, in Lusaka, at the polling stations serving most of the compounds there was chaos. On polling day morning a single lorry, later two lorries, began delivering ballot boxes to sixty-four polling stations. All of these were, of course, very late opening - the final one, as far as I know, opened at 14.30. The consequence was that hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of voters were milling round in school yards for hours on end. Voting went on through the night, often only by candlelight, so that by the time the weary polling station staff had to start the count some of them had been on duty for over twenty-four hours. Not a situation conducive to accurate counting, recording or tabulating detailed figures. But even more serious is the number of voters who lost their votes as a consequence of the maladministration of the election at these polling stations. Workers who had to abandon the queue to go to work; mothers who had to go to attend to children; and those who could not continue to stand in line without food or shelter. Whether these disenfranchised citizens would have affected the final results had they been able to vote, perhaps no-one will ever be able to ascertain, but it is unjust that their votes will not be counted.
The political parties
I have no mandate to advise anyone, least of all the political parties, and nor would I wish to have, but I make just one comment: that Zambia has, perhaps, too many parties but not enough politicians. By that I mean that the political parties, by their deep involvement and their ability to check each other, have a key role, perhaps the key role, in ensuring the legitimacy of elections. What is disappointing to me is that all too often the parties in Zambia do not perceive the significance of the evidence in front of them. For instance, any party concerned about the accuracy of the officially reported figures has, in theory, the remedy in its own hands, in the form of its polling agents and their record of the polling station figures they sign off. This is one of the reasons that party polling agents are written into legislation, but it would appear that some at least of the parties have not made use of the benefits the law provides for them.
The current situation
What of the current situation? I remain concerned about some of the anomalies that still exist. Let me give two particular illustrations and two more general ones. In the running list of results issued by the ECZ, constituency 8, Mkushi South, was shown as having 14% voter turnout, which was plainly wrong. It was simple inputting error - the number of registered voters had been entered as 22,162 rather than 5,028; and for quite some time before it was corrected, constituency 20, Kamfinsa, was shown as having had 12,924 electors casting their votes in the presidential election, but only 4,612 in the parliamentary election, which was also incredible. If such errors can creep into the published results, the nagging doubt is, are there others as yet undiscovered?
The general points are that, first, there are 28 constituencies listed as having no invalid ballot papers. It is quite impossible that some 330,000 electors could cast their votes without a single one making a mistake. There may be a simple explanation but it has not yet been proposed. Second, there are 29 constituencies where the difference in the votes cast in the presidential and parliamentary elections is more than 1,000. To me this is very odd. The same voters, at the same polling stations, at the same time produce such a difference in votes cast? How? Again, I suggest that thorough enquiries are needed.
One final point in an attempt to put our work into perspective. International observers do what they can with relatively small numbers in the field. They have, of course, the benefit of considerable experience, often in many African countries, but, at the end of the day it is the domestic monitoring bodies, FODEP and Coalition 2001, with almost complete coverage of the whole country who are more important. If we have assisted them in their work, then that too will have been well worthwhile.