THE Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) says COVID-19 impacted the conduct of voter education negatively due to restrictions on community mobilisation.
And ECZ says some restrictions negatively affected its corporate image as some stakeholders held the view that they were targeted at opposition parties.
In response to a press query, ECZ corporate affairs manager Patricia Luhanga said the pandemic had both negative and positive impacts on the administration of the electoral process.
“Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had both negative and positive impacts on administering the electoral process: (1) Voter education – COVID-19 impacted negatively on the conduct of voter education due to restrictions on community mobilization. Self-mobilized activities such as religious and social gatherings were suspended thereby limiting outreach; (2) Procurement of goods and services – the pandemic had impacted negatively on the global supply chain resulting from;(a) Companies closing down or downsizing thereby affecting their production capacities; (b) Suspension of flights or limited flights coming into the country, therefore, affecting the movement of business persons and goods in and out of the country,” she said.
“Additionally, staff traveling out of the country required COVID-19 clearance and/ or quarantined for specified number of days. (c) Closure of borders by some neighboring country which affected the movement of people and goods. (d) Frustration of contract due to the depreciation of the kwacha. Suppliers’ profit margins were reduced or slid into negative leading to some contracts being cancelled or suppliers pulling out. These factors led to delayed supply and delivery of election materials.”
She said restrictions negatively affected the Commission’s corporate image as some stakeholders held the view that the restrictions were targeted at opposition parties.
“(3) Limited election campaigns – The Commission developed COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that restricted political parties from holding of public rallies. Hence, voters without access to alternative media did not have sufficient information on political parties and candidates to make informed choices. Further, restrictions negatively affected the Commission’s corporate image as some stakeholders held the view that restrictions were targeted at the opposition political parties,” Luhanga said.
“(4) Additional cost of conducting elections as the Commission had to procure COVID-19 materials coupled with inflationary effects on the economy. (5) Disruption of work processes and flow as a result of COVID-19 related death and illness among Commission staff thereby slowing and/ or disrupting work processes and flow. This was compounded by work schedules that required some staff to work from home.”
Luhanga said the positive impact of COVID-19 was that the Commission and stakeholders utilised social media and other online platforms to reach out to the public.
“(6) Use of new media – the positive impact of COVID-19 resulting from restrictions on public gathering presented an opportunity for the Commission and stakeholders to utilize social media and online platforms to reach out to the public and hold virtual gatherings,” said Luhanga.