Elections In Zambia Get Underway

Elections in Zambia get underway

LUSAKA, Zambia, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 11th Augst,2016) : Zambians queued in their millions Thursday for a series of elections that will see the southern African nation elect a fresh president as well as lawmakers, mayors and local authorities. The country's 6.7 million eligible voters will also be balloted on a controversial bill of rights.

Most of the 7,700 polls in 156 Constituencies opened at 6 a.m. local time (0400GMT) but voting was delayed in some districts due to the late arrival of election material. Chris Akufuna, spokesman for the Electoral Commission of Zambia, said: "We had put everything in order to ensure that voting began in time but some unforeseen factors happened in some places… But in general the situation is normal and the voting process is going on normally. "The commission regrets the delay and hopes this will not be interpreted to mean something else by our stakeholders." The election campaign has been marred by violence and allegations of misconduct, particularly between the main contestants -- the ruling Patriotic Front and the United Party for National Development. Richwell Mulwani, director of the Anti-Voter Apathy Project, told Anadolu Agency that delays and voting irregularities could heighten tensions.

"These elections are not only competitive but also highly emotional," he said. "For candidates, these elections are a matter of life and death. Anything that threatens their interests, including late delivery of election material, could raise suspicion and tension among stakeholders." He said some voters had complained of being omitted from the electoral roll in their district or being registered incorrectly.

Solidad Musokwe, 34, said she had waited for hours to cast her vote at Kuomboka polling station in President Edgar Lungu's former seat Chawama in the capital Lusaka. The district is seen as one of the election’s key constituencies. "The center opened exactly at 6 a.m.

but as you can see the queues are too long," she said. "But I am not going to give up until I cast my vote for my candidates." Moses Kibimbwe, 21, who was queuing at Sokaliyenda station in Chawama, said many people had stayed away because of security worries. "Violent clashes between rival parties, which characterized the campaigns, made many stay away from voting," he said.

"A lot more people could have stayed away from voting had it not for the presence of armed police officers that deployed in polling stations to prevent clashes between political supporters." Bright Muhone, presiding officer at New Kanyama school polling station in Lusaka, told Anadolu Agency that more than 3,000 voters had passed through the station in the first three hours.

"Other than slight irregularities noted, voting is going smoothly and will go on according to schedule," he said. Voting is due to end at 6 p.m. (1600GMT). The main presidential challengers to Lungu are Hakainde Hichilema from the United Party for National Development and the Forum for Democracy and Development's Edith Nawakwi.

Under Zambia's constitution, the president and lawmakers are elected for five years under a first-past-the-post system.