Saturday, June 18, 2011

Civil Society Election Coalition necessary for free, fair election

Civil Society Election Coalition necessary for free, fair election
By The Post
Sat 18 June 2011, 04:00 CAT

For as long as the majority of the people feel they cannot elect their own leaders in free, fair, transparent and violence-free elections, there will be tension and conflict.

It is therefore important that elections are organised and conducted in a manner that gives citizens the confidence that the results are accurate and that the government that arises from these elections does, indeed, rest upon their consent. Elections are very important and are the central institution of democratic governance.

And in a democracy, the authority of the government derives solely from the consent of the governed. The principle mechanism for translating that consent into governmental authority is the holding of free, fair, transparent and violence-free elections.

Therefore, any effort that ensures that the outcome of our elections accurately and truly reflects the will of our people should deserve the support of all citizens of goodwill.

For this reason, we welcome the launch of the Civil Society Election Coalition, whose primary objective is to ensure that the outcome of this year’s elections accurately reflects the will of the Zambian people. For this year’s elections to accurately and truly reflect the will of the Zambian people, they have to be conducted in an environment that can truly be said to be free, fair, transparent and violence-free.

We are told that the Civil Society Election Coalition “will seek to
promote transparency and accountability in the electoral process,
encourage citizen participation in exercising their right to vote and help
ensure that the outcomes of Zambia’s tripartite elections accurately
reflect the will of the voters”.

Voting in the election of public officials is the most visible and common form of participation in modern democracies, and also the most fundamental. The ability to conduct free and fair elections is at the core of what it means to call a society

The function of elections is dead serious: to provide a peaceful and fair method by which our people can select their leaders and have a meaningful role in determining their own destiny. But it shouldn’t be taken for granted that elections will play this role regardless of the circumstances. If the atmosphere under which elections are being held is not conducive for free, fair, transparent and violence-free elections, the result may not be desirable.

The competition for power can sometimes turn negative or ugly. We have seen many examples of this in many places in the world. But elections are still seen as uniquely suited to provide a peaceful means of competition for power and influence. However, in saying this, we do not in any way mean that opting to go the electoral route to choose leaders is not without risks.

As we are witnessing in our country today, the stakes may seem extremely high and people will do everything possible to win an election. There appears to be a strong incentive to opt for extra-legal means to ensure electoral victory. It is in these delicate situations that election monitors like our Civil Society Election Coalition can play an important role.

We welcome the launch of the Civil Society Election Coalition because election monitoring is important; it is the cornerstone of creating a democratic political system. As such, monitoring can assist democratic consolidation by instilling legitimacy.

Free, fair and peaceful elections may also promote national unity by reconciling all the political competitors and ensuring that they all remain loyal to the democratic system. And as we have stated before, political competitors don’t necessarily have to like each other, but they must tolerate one another and acknowledge that each has a legitimate and important role to play.

Moreover, the ground rules of the society must encourage tolerance and civility in politics and the election campaigns that accompany it. And no matter who wins, all
the political competitors must cooperate in solving the common problems of society.

The losers should form a loyal opposition.
They should be loyal not to the specific policies of the political party
that has won elections and now has formed government, but to the
fundamental legitimacy of the state, and to the democratic process itself.

?:"'lWhere contentious elections present fears of vote tampering and other
irregularities, the presence of election monitors may serve to prevent
shenanigans and give parties greater confidence that the vote was free and
fair. The key to achieving this outcome is election monitors who are seen
by all sides as neutral.

But in saying this, we are mindful of the fact
that those who want to win elections through fraud and manipulation will
never welcome neutral election monitors. The first thing they will do is
smear them with the filth of being agents of foreign interests or of being
supporters of their political opponents. And this is exactly what the MMD
and its government has been trying to do. The only monitors acceptable to
them are those they control and can easily direct. Anyone independent from
them is not acceptable no matter how neutral or impartial they may be.

For these reasons, it is easier to understand why the MMD has not welcomed the
Civil Society Election Coalition and has started attacking it using
disgraced individuals and organisations of the political mercenaries they
control. They are trying in all sorts of ways to undermine all
independent, neutral and impartial election monitors.

We all need to support the Civil Society Election Coalition because their
monitoring work can help enhance the credibility and legitimacy of our
elections, thereby helping to reduce the possibility of electoral violence
in our country.

It can help maintain peace in our country after the
elections because losers will lack the ability to shout “fraud!” and
disrupt our country’s democratisation process. One way they can ensure
this is through parallel vote tabulation, by taking independent vote
tallies, which prevents those in power from manipulating the vote.

Clearly, the Civil Society Election Coalition can assist in building and
strengthening our electoral process. By observing the conditions on the
ground, they will certainly play a significant role in giving legitimacy
to the final vote by providing unbiased insight into the circumstances
surrounding the voting procedure.

They will also give the world eyes on
what is happening in our electoral process, and they can either bolster
the credibility of our elections if they deem them free and fair or call
them what they are, if indeed they are fraudulent. Clearly, the Civil
Society Election Coalition is necessary for free and fair elections in our
country and deserves all our support. Free and fair elections in choosing
leaders are absolutely necessary in our democratic process. It is sad when
elections are marred with unfairness and violence.

It is essential for our
politicians and their political parties to respect our people’s choice.
Our elections should never be a matter of fraud or coercion since that
would break the sacred character of democracy



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