The Electrol Commission of Zambia: The Challenge of Being Autonomous and Independent
Mwaba, Clifford Evans
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The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) is the constitutional public institution established for the purpose of primarily conducting presidential and parliamentary elections in the Republic of Zambia. The ECZ consists of 5 full time commissioners, inclusive of the Chairperson, all of whom are directly appointed by the Republican President. The ECZ has come under severe criticism at each and every general election held in Zambia since 1996 on suspicion of being a political tool for the political party in power..These persistent attacks on the credibility of the ECZ are related to various reasons. The ECZ is perceived not to be independent and autonomous because it suffers from both direct and indirect interference by the executive arm of government in the electoral process when at the same time the executive are active political players in the race for political power. One of the major criticisms is the direct role the President plays as the sole appointing authority of the commissioners including the * •* chairperson. The integrity of the ECZ in the conduct and management of elections has thus continued to be questioned by stakeholders, the main assertion being that the ECZ is not independent in the conduct of its mandate. This obligatory research essay examines the legal framework of the ECZ with the aim of finding a lasting solution which can help restore the institution's credibility in the eyes of all the stakeholders and the public at large. This task starts by carrying out a general overview of the legal framework of the institutions responsible for the management and administration of elections, generally classified as Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs). The purpose of this sjudy is to critically analyze the independence of the ECZ in order to establish the extent of the adequacy of the legal framework that governs its independence. The study therefore aims at making recommendations on how the lacuna and weaknesses in the electoral legislation can be addressed to ensure the independence of the ECZ in exercise of this mandate. This analysis is targeted at the law and the legal environment under which the Commission operates and the electoral system under which elections are ultimately conducted. Further, a comparative case study of electoral bodies in three selected countries, Nigeria, India and the United Kingdom has been conducted. This has been done in order to make an informed understanding of the legal framework that runs the electoral machinery in Zambia. The comparative case studies of the three countries compare and contrast the ECZ legal framework Some guiding principles identified for a successful ECZ include constitutional and legal independence; operational independence; financial independence; appointment and dismissal procedures and; tenure of members. « The study finally draws recommendations gathered through conducted interviews of some key stakeholders and also from research literature. The conclusion drawn is that the problems of independence and autonomy at the ECZ are not peculiarly internal but that much of it is external. The political players themselves have much to learn about democratic ideals and good governance.
- Law