THE African Union Election Observation Mission has recommended that the government should review the 14-day period provided for determining presidential election petitions to allow sufficient adjudication time.

And the Mission has bemoaned the polarisation of the media despite the country having a huge number of registered and operating media houses.

Speaking during a press briefing, Saturday, head of the AUEOM, His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma said the time frame given for the determination of presidential petitions was insufficient.

“According to Article 103 of the Constitution, election petitions for presidential results must be determined by the Constitutional Court within 14-days of the filling of the petition. This timeframe is deemed by most stakeholders as insufficient to hear and determine a petition on its merits,” he said.

Dr Koroma, who is also former President of Sierra Leone, urged government to create enforcement mechanisms that would ensure that state resources do not serve partisan interests.

“Urgently undertake measures to address underlying factors of increasing tension and politically motivated violence through inclusive dialogue and engagement with other stakeholders; Review the period provided for determining election petitions for presidential elections to allow sufficient adjudication time; Prosecute perpetrators of election-related violence and other forms of political coercion; and create enforcement mechanisms for ensuring that state resources (both human and material) do not serve partisan interests,” he noted.

Dr Koroma also urged the Electoral Commission of Zambia to adopt and publicize transparent procedures for the tabulation, transmission and announcement of results.

“Enhance transparency and trust in the electoral process and ensure the ECZ is widely perceived to be a credible institution by adopting proactive engagement measures with stakeholders particularly opposition parties and CSOs; Review the process of accreditation to facilitate the participation of observers, monitors and party agents to enhance the transparency and credibility of the electoral process; Review the number of voters allocated per polling station to ease the problem of long queues and congestion; Adopt and publicize transparent procedures for the tabulation, transmission, and announcement of results,” he said.

“To Political Parties; Refrain from acts of violence, hate speech, incitement, and intimidation of opponents during the electoral process; Adopt affirmative actions aimed at increasing participation and representation of women, especially in leadership positions; Channel any disputes on the process or its outcomes through appropriate dispute resolution mechanisms as provided for in the law.”

He further urged civil society organisations to improve their collaboration with the ECZ and other stakeholders to enhance the transparency and credibility of the electoral process.

And Dr Koroma said it was observed that the media landscape was polarised despite the country having a diverse range of media houses in the country.

“Despite this diversity, the media landscape remains polarised along political party lines. The campaign period witnessed a noticeable increase in hate speech, misinformation, and cyberbullying through various media channels. The election coverage by the public broadcaster, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), was perceived by some stakeholders as biased in favour of the ruling party. The AUEOM notes the passage of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act in March 2021 in response to increasing cybercrimes. However, concerns were raised by stakeholders on its potential adverse effect on the freedom of expression and right to privacy,” said Dr Koroma.

“The media, particularly the public broadcaster, should ensure equal access and unbalanced election coverage to all political parties and candidates. Strictly adhere to ethical reporting standards, including fact checking systems to combat fake news and misinformation on the elections.”