THE European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) has recommended the removal of undue campaign privileges for the President and Vice-President from the law in order to ensure campaign equal campaign for all candidates.

And the EU EOM has recommended that a law regulating political party financing should be enacted.

During the presentation of the EU EOM final report, Tuesday, Chief observer Maria Arena said the Electoral Process Act made no clear distinction between what was considered official action and what was considered political campaigning.

“The fourth priority is speaking about campaign privileges for the incumbent. The code of conduct embedded in the Electoral Process Act, regulates key aspect of campaigning which exempt the President and Vice-President from restrictions on the use of state-owned transportation and facilities in connection with their offices. The electoral process act makes no clear distinction between what is considered official action and what is considered political campaigning. The EU EOM therefore recommends removing undue campaign privileges for the President and the Vice-President to ensure equal campaign conditions for all candidates,” Arena said.

She observed that 2021 general elections took place against a background of deep polarisation.

“The EU EOM concluded that the 2021 general elections took place against a background of deepening polarisation. Throughout the campaign, there were widespread concerns about political, potential escalation of violence. Despite the COVID-19 challenges, the electoral process was technically well managed. Arbitrary and selective application of the law impaired opposition candidates from competing under equal conditions and restricted freedom of assembly and movements. The ruling party extensively used state resources and its campaign was highly monetised with the ruling party monopolising the prime time and state and private media. Disinformation and tribalism prevailed. But we were witness to the peaceful transition of power which was inspiring and promising and I would like to congratulate all the Zambian people for it,” she said.

And Arena said a law on political party financing should be enacted.

“The fifth priority is with respect to campaign finance. There is no law on political party finance. There are a few separate rules requiring candidates to declare assets and liabilities to contest elections. However, there is a lack of meaningful accountability mechanisms for political finance and campaign finance. We observe a massive monetization of the campaigns. To address this topic, the EU EOM recommends enacting a law on campaign finance including reporting requirements for political parties, candidates and traditional and social media. And to maintain standardised timely exposure before and after elections and to audit income and expenditure reports by competent, independent body with investigative sanctioning and enforcement powers,” Arena said.

Meanwhile, Arena said the Public Order Act was outdated and needed to be repealed.

“The final report provides a comprehensive and objective analysis with recommendation with the view to further improving the framework for future elections in Zambia. The final report offers in total 22 recommendations for electoral reform based on observations, analysis and extensive discussion with the large bridge of stakeholders. It includes six priority recommendations. There is an outdated Public Order Act of 1955 which mandates notification of public gathering to police,” Arena said.

“A law that has been selectively applied to restrict freedom of assembly, movement and expression. Contrary to international standards. Based on this law, the police may impose restrictions on numerous and those who might participate in gatherings. While the President and vice-president are exempted from these restrictions. During the 2021 campaign for instance, restrictions involved excessive use of force by the police to curb campaign of the opposition and initiate arrests. So, we recommend to repeal the Public Order Act and ensure in law, adherence to regional and international standards for freedom of assembly, movement and expression.”

She recommended that candidacy requirements should be revised.

“The second priority is concerning candidacy requirements. Some administrative and legal provisions impede the right to stand. Candidates are required to evidence qualification requirements inconsistent with Zambia’s international commitment. Entering doors without formal education. Registration fees are excessive and non-refundable. Even though women, youth and persons with disabilities pay lower fees. The EU EOM therefore recommends to revise candidacy requirements to enhance the right and the opportunity to stand by ensuring registration fees do not deter participation and are refundable and removing educational requirements for the right to stand,’ she said.

She saida law on political parties stipulating registration requirements and guaranteeing internal party democracy, inclusivity, transparency and accountability with adequate institutional oversight should be enacted and that cooperation between the Electoral Commission of Zambia, civil society and main social media platforms should be formalised.

Arena said the recommendations would assist in improving the framework for future elections.

“Of course we can only make recommendations, we believe though that these recommendations may assist in improving the framework for future elections. However, it is entirely up to Zambia, the authorities and institutions to take any of the recommendations on board. In the spirit of cooperation, I would like to stress that the stands ready to assist Zambia with implementation of any of these recommendations. After the mission’s departure, the EU delegation to Zambia and COMESA led by Ambassador Jacek Jankowski will closely follow electoral reforms in Zambia. The EU will stay engaged in the follow up during the inter-election period and is ready to offer assistance with focus on implementation of the Election Observer Mission recommendations,” said Arena.