Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Prosecute election corruption, fraud
By Editor
Sun 14 July 2013, 14:00 CAT

Corrupt activities committed during election campaigns should be prosecuted like any other.

It is not enough to nullify an election on the grounds of corruption and then allow the culprits to go scot-free. Some even recontest elections after being found to be corrupt and win.

How can someone who has been found to be corrupt and whose election was accordingly nullified be allowed to recontest the same seat when he should be in jail?

And moreover, those whose elections have been nullified and resulted in by-elections are causing the taxpayer to incur more costs as a result of their corruption and other electoral fraud. Why should such people be allowed to take part in by-elections?

We have had situations in the past where the courts recommended the prosecution of people who were found with criminal abuses during election petitions, but they were allowed to go scot-free.

There is nothing in our laws that says if one engages in corruption during elections they can only have the result nullified without them being prosecuted for the crime.

The attempt by the Anti-Corruption Commission to study the election petition judgments with a view to finding out cases that can be prosecuted is highly welcome. It is long overdue because we have people in Parliament today who were found to be corrupt during elections and had their elections nullified. They were allowed by some political parties to recontest and won. What morality is this?

Decent political parties are expected not to adopt people who have been found to be corrupt and had their elections nullified on that account. If morality doesn't exist in our politics, the law exists to deal with criminal acts and it should be made effective. Moreover, even if the political parties had such high morals and were not willing to adopt corrupt elements, things shouldn't end there. The law enforcement agencies, especially the Anti-Corruption Commission, should pursue those who have been found to have resorted to corruption during elections and arrest and prosecute them.

It may also be necessary for the Anti-Corruption Commission and other law enforcement agencies to be proactive and look out for cases of corruption during elections. They shouldn't just wait for election petitions to be brought for them to pursue those who have been found wanting. In fact, it will be much better if their actions were independent of election petitions because a conviction would automatically nullify the election. A lot of money and time would be saved because of instead of having two cases - one a civil matter under the electoral laws and another, a criminal one under the Penal Code - we would only have one. This would also save the individual costs of pursuing people who engage in electoral corruption and other malpractices. Election petitions are not cheap and as a result many fraudulent elections are not challenged.

It is good that the Anti-Corruption Commission is thinking of becoming proactive when it comes to election corruption. This will help a great deal in increasing the credibility of our elections. Elections which are corruption free are more likely to be generally accepted by the voters. And when election results are accepted by all, political stability increases and democracy is strengthened.

Corruption-free elections also lead to better governments. If corruption is removed from elections, the cost of elections also goes down. And with the cost of elections reducing, participation increases as more and more people are able to set themselves a political agenda. Where there is corruption during elections, only those who are able to mobilise more resources will be able to participate as candidates in an election.

The measures that the Anti-Corruption Commission is trying to take deserve the support of all who want to see clean elections in our homeland. But of course the political parties that want to adopt corrupt politicians as candidates will not be happy with this and may seek to have things continue the way they have been. We expect them to oppose this because corruption has never been an issue with them in the first place. The individuals who have been found to be corrupt were sponsored by the same political parties and the money they used to corrupt weak souls came from the same political parties. We don't see the MMD and UPND accept such a move. This is so because the MMD had no problems with election corruption in 2011. The whole party leadership supported it. There is no one in the MMD leadership who openly criticised the corruption that was going on. The UPND also had no problems with that corruption. It was actually a beneficiary of the corruption of the MMD in 2011 - they had some working relationship or a loose alliance against the Patriotic Front. This is why today the UPND doesn't have problems fielding on its ticket MMD candidates whose elections have been nullified. In Lukulu West, the UPND fielded an MMD member whose election was nullified for corruption. We are told they have been seeking to do the same in Petauke Central and Malambo where MMD candidates were found to be corrupt and had their elections nullified. UPND doesn't care about such corruption - it wants them dirty and stinking as they are.

Clearly, if the issue of election corruption is left to the politicians, we will not put an end to it. It is encouraging that the Anti-Corruption Commission is joining the fight. The courts are doing well on this front and need the support of other judicial institutions to cleanse our electoral system of corruption and other malpractices.

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