The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) to Zambia has released its final report on the 2021 general elections.
General elections were held on 12 August 2021 to elect the President, National Assembly, mayors, council chairs and councillors. Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development was elected president, defeating incumbent Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front.
The 14-member delegation, led by the former President of Tanzania, Dr. Jakaya Kikwete, concluded that the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) was well prepared for election day and that the election, as a whole, was largely peaceful, credible, transparent, and inclusive – despite some challenges, including those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Group commended voters for turning out in significant numbers on election day to exercise their democratic rights. They congratulated the ECZ, polling staff, political parties and their leaders, the Coalition for Peaceful Elections in Zambia (CPEZ), the media, and security forces for their respective roles in holding peaceful elections and ensuring a peaceful transition.
The final report, which has been officially conveyed to the Government of Zambia and distributed to relevant stakeholders, builds on the findings of the preliminary statement that was issued shortly after the elections and provides a comprehensive assessment of the entire electoral process – before, during, and after the polls.
The report offers concrete recommendations on electoral reforms for consideration by authorities on practical ways in which the country could improve future elections in areas such as the participation of women, youth, and people with disabilities; the electoral framework and administration; pre-election campaigns; election administration; the role of the media; and the voting, counting and results-management processes.
In order to strengthen women’s participation and representation, the Group called upon the government to introduce mandatory quotas and adopt appropriate legislative measures to promote gender-balanced political representation.
The Group also noted that measures should be taken to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to participate fully in the electoral cycle.
The Group finally recommended strengthening the regulation of funding for political parties and the training of polling officials to iron out some of the inconsistencies in the execution of their duties.
“I thank the Zambian authorities for inviting us to observe this historic election and I commend the people of Zambia for their inspirational commitment to a peaceful election,” said Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland.
“I also commend the key institutions in Zambia for their role in ensuring peace and delivering an orderly transition of power.
“The Commonwealth Observer Group and Secretariat staff played a crucial role during the elections. I applaud their efforts and I hope their recommendations will be received in the Commonwealth spirit of constructive engagement as part of efforts to improve future electoral processes.
“This is the third Commonwealth Observer Group to Zambia since 2006, demonstrating the Commonwealth Secretariat’s strong commitment to supporting democracy in Zambia. I will personally be following Zambia’s progress in implementing the Observer Group’s recommendations, and the Commonwealth Secretariat will continue to offer all necessary support to the people and government of Zambia in their journey of democratic development through our whole-of-election cycle approach.”
In the months ahead, the Commonwealth Secretariat intends to undertake another follow-up visit to meet with stakeholders on the implementation of the observer recommendations.
The Commonwealth previously announced it will deploy a team to observe the general elections in Lesotho, to be held on 7 October.
The group will be led by the former president of Seychelles, Danny Faure.