|The Nine Presidential candidates -Picture by Mwebantu|
By Paul Shalala
Campaigns have come to an end in Zambia and voters are tomorrow expected to vote for their President, Members of Parliament, Mayors, Council Chairmen and Councillors.
Also on the ballot is the referendum which seeks to approve or disapprove the amendment to the Bill of Rights.
Tomorrow, a total of 6, 698, 372 voters are expected to vote at thousands of polling stations across the country's 10 provinces.
Voting commences at polling stations starting in the morning at 06:00hrs and close at 18:00hrs in the evening after which counting commences.
About a dozen local and foreign election missions and organisations have deployed thousands of their monitors across the country.
Since the campaign period opened on May 16 this year, various political parties and candidates have traversed the country to canvass for votes.
Eight candidates are challenging President Edgar Lungu who is seeking a full five year term of his own after serving 19 months of the remainder of his predecessor Michael Sata who died in October 2014.
According to the Electoral Commission of Zambia, 651 candidates are battling for the 156 seats in Parliament, 331 candidates are contesting as Mayors and Council Chairpersons while those who are aspiring as Councillors countrywide are 4566.
On the eve of the elections, various stakeholders have issued statements to call for peace during the elections.
Others have reflected on the past three months that have seen a hive of activities across the country.
The Southern African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD), a governance civil society organization, has called for a peaceful poll.
“The high levels of intolerance and political violence demonstrated during the campaign period which ends today indicates a high level of disregard for the citizenry and the ideals of democracy. Zambians now have an opportunity to peacefully work in solidarity and show perpetrators of political violence and intolerance that they will not to be intimidated to exercise their right to vote. We are therefore urging the citizens of this country to go and peacefully cast their votes in large numbers tomorrow 11th August, 2016,” said SACCORD Executive Director Boniface Cheembe in his election eve statement.
The Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP), another governance organization, has called on the ECZ to handle the elections in a transparent manner.
“We further wish to appeal to the ECZ to ensure timeliness and utmost transparency in the opening of polling stations and handling of voting materials to avoid acts of violence. This is an extremely important election being watched by the international community and it is imperative that electoral officials are professional in their work to inspire public confidence in the electoral process and ensure acceptance of the results,” says FODEP Executive Director Chimfwembe Mwenge in a statement issued today.
For the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), their concern is the use of youths as tools of violence during elections.
In their pre-election statement released today, the Bishops have challenged youths to be architects of a better Zambia.
“..........we hereby challenge the youths to be architects of a better Zambia by being agents of peace and reconciliation. We therefore appeal to you to “refuse to be used as mere tools of violence by unscrupulous politicians. In conclusion we again extend our earnest appeal to all Zambians to realise that voting is one of their fundamental rights and duties. It is also a Christian duty. We thus pray that all citizens enter the August 11 general elections with a spirit of honesty, avoiding bribes and cheating. We also pray that all voters, political party leaders and their cadres may have at heart, the needed passion and commitment to build for peace and avoid all forms of violence,” reads parts of the statement issued by ZCCB President Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu.
ECZ Chairperson Esau Chulu has today announced that the commission is expected to announce the final results within 48 hours of the close of polling tomorrow.