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Statement on the Conduct of Voting, Counting and Results for the 5 December 2019 Milenge Council Chairperson By-Election

Introduction

The Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) is an alliance of four faith based organisations formed to help promote credible elections through non-partisan citizen monitoring. The CCMG partner organisations are: Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ); Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ); Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR); and Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), formerly the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC), through Caritas Zambia. CCMG was founded ahead of the 20th January 2015 presidential by-election. CCMG is a member of the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM) (https://gndem.org/) and conducts all of its observation efforts in conformity with the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations (https://gndem.org/declaration-of globalprinciples/). CCMG is strictly independent and non-partisan. We support no political party or candidate.

Summary

Elections are more than just election day. CCMG has been observing the entire process for the Milenge by-election. As part of this effort, CCMG deployed two long-term observers (LTOs) to observe the general political environment in every ward in the constituency during the period before the election day.

For Election Day, CCMG recruited, trained and deployed 40 observers, including 38 Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) Monitors, to every polling station and stream in Milenge Constituency. CCMG also deployed two Ward Supervisors who served as mobile monitors throughout the constituency. PVT Monitors arrived at their assigned polling station and polling stream at 05:30 hours and were trained to remain there throughout polling station setup, voting and counting until the official results for the council chairperson election for the entire polling station were publicly announced and posted. The objective of CCMG’s PVT project was to make the Milenge by-election; more transparent by providing systematic factual information on the conduct of the process; more accountable by independently verifying the accuracy of the official results as announced by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and more inclusive by giving voters confidence to participate.

CCMG had all its 40 Election Day observers accredited by the ECZ on 2 December 2019 and all the 38 observers deployed to polling stations/streams at 05:30 on 5 December 2019 were permitted to observe. CCMG noted the late opening of three of polling stations in Nsunga Ward (Kashila Community School, Lupiya Community School and Lungomukuta Primary School) due to logistical challenges faced by the ECZ. CCMG’s Monitors noted that at all three polling stations voting started before 07h00.

Select Findings

Setup and Opening of Polling Stations

  • 92% of polling streams were open by 6:30am;
  • At 100% of polling streams, an agent for PF was present at opening and setup;
  • At 92% of polling streams an agent for UPND was present at opening and setup;
  • At 100% of polling streams, the ballot box was shown to be empty before being closed and sealed;
  • 100% of polling streams had a voters’ register, council chairperson ballot papers, and the official stamp;
  • 97% of polling streams had the official stamp/mark. However, one polling stream, Lungomukuta Primary School in Nsunga Ward, was missing the permanent marker/indelible ink.

Voting Process

  • At 100% of polling streams, election officials stamped every council chairperson ballot paper with the official mark/stamp;
  • At 97% of polling streams, indelible ink was applied to the finger of every voter;
  • At 100% of polling streams, no one was permitted to vote without having an NRC and Voter ID Card;
  • At 95% of polling streams, persons with disabilities, pregnant women and nursing mothers were allowed to go to the front of the queue;
  • At 53% of polling streams, no one was allowed to vote whose names were missing on the voters register despite having their NRC and Voter’s Card. At 47% of polling streams, some (less than half of all voters) voters who had an NRC and a Voter’s Card but whose name did not appear on the register were allowed to vote;
  • At 100% of polling streams, no one was permitted to vote if they did not have their NRCs and Voter’s Cards with them;
  • At 100% of polling streams, no one was allowed to vote who had indelible ink on their thumbs or fingers;
  • At 32% of polling streams, some (less than half) able bodied women (not physically disabled) were assisted to vote by a man;
  • At 100% of polling streams, there were no unauthorised persons present at any time during the voting process.

Counting Process

  • At 100% of polling streams, all party polling agents present were permitted to observe the counting of council chairperson ballot papers;
  • At 11% of polling streams, there was insufficient light during the counting of council chairperson ballot papers;
  • At 92% of polling streams a representative for Nsamba of UPND was present during counting;
  • At 100% of polling streams a representative for Masheke of PF was present during counting;
  • All CCMG monitors reported that polling officials showed the council chairperson ballot papers to all party representatives so that they could see how each was marked;
  • At 100% of polling streams with party agents present, party agents representing PF and UPND agreed with the council chairperson results, signed a copy of the official results form (GEN 12), and were given a copy of the form (GEN 12).

Posting of Results

  • At 97% of polling stations, the council chairperson results for the entire polling station were posted for the public to see

Accessibility of Voting for People with Disabilities

  • Only 29% of polling streams had Braille jackets for blind voters;
  • At 50% of polling streams voters had to go up a step to access the polling station;
  • At 95% of polling streams, people with disabilities, pregnant women and nursing mothers were allowed to go to the front of the queue.

Participation of Women

  • CCMG reports that of the average five (5) ECZ officials in polling streams, an average of two (2) were women;
  • CCMG reports that more than half of security officers present at polling streams were women.

Comparison Official Electoral Commission of Zambia Results for the 2019 Milenge Council Chairperson By-Election

CCMG has received, verified and analysed monitoring reports from 100% of its PVT Monitors from 38 polling streams at 33 polling stations. These monitors arrived at their assigned polling streams and polling stations at 5:30 hours and remained there throughout voting and counting until the results for the council chairperson by-election for the entire polling station were announced and posted.

As part of the PVT, monitors reported the official results as announced by the election officials for polling stations via coded text message using their mobile phones. CCMG’s PVT Monitors did not ask anyone for whom they had voted nor did CCMG’s PVT Monitors count the ballot papers themselves. What CCMG’s PVT Monitors did was monitor the entire process from the opening of the polling station, through voting and counting to ensure that the results announced by the election officials were the product of a credible process and that the ballot papers were counted correctly.

CCMG’s PVT results are consistent with the ECZ’s official results for the 2019 Milenge council chairperson by-election giving confidence on the results as announced by the ECZ.

Table 1: Comparison of Results for the Milenge Council Chairperson By-Election 2019

Table 1 provides a comparison of CCMG’s PVT results and the ECZ’s official council chairperson byelection results. CCMG’s PVT provides the percentage of the vote each candidate received as well as the percentage of rejected ballots and turnout.

CCMG’s PVT Monitors reported that at 100% of polling stations where party agents for the United Party for National Development (UPND) and the Patriotic Front were present, both party agents signed the ECZ’s official results form (GEN 12) indicating that they agreed with the official results. At 100% of polling stations all party agents present were given a copy of the official results for the council chairperson by-election and at 97% of polling stations the official results for the council chairperson by-election were posted for the public to see.

Critical Incidents

CCMG received a report of one critical incident, which occurred at Milenge Primary School Polling Station involving an ECZ officials and a suspected UPND party supporter who alleged that the counting process was not properly followed and requested a recount as he believed the results announced were incorrect. CCMG’s observer reported that police managed to prevent the situation from escalating, a recount was done at the polling station and the results matched those announced earlier.

Key Findings from the Pre-Election Period (November 28 – December 4)

Prior to election day, CCMG deployed two long-term observers (LTOs) to observe the general political environment in all 13 wards in Milenge Constituency. CCMG released a report on December 1 with findings from its observers during the period November 21-27.

  1. Voter Education/Information – 100% of CCMG’s observers witnessed or head voter education/information conducted by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ). None of the CCMG observers witnessed or head any voter education/information conducted by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) or local media in Milenge Constituency.
  2. Election Preparations – 100% of CCMG’s observers witnessed or heard of preparations by the ECZ for the Milenge by-election, including the recruitment of polling staff.
  3. Political Parties Campaign Activities – 100% of CCMG observers witnessed or heard of campaign activities being conducted by the Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND). CCMG Observers did not witness or hear of any campaign activities associated with any political party other than PF and UPND.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Based on reports from CCMG’s Monitors, CCMG notes that set-up, opening, voting and counting processes in the Milenge council chairperson by-election were conducted in accordance with the electoral procedures. CCMG notes that political party agents were able to observe the voting and counting processes and agreed with the results as announced. CCMG commends the ECZ for the improvements in the accreditation process, resulting in the smooth processing of the accreditation of CCMG’s monitors. This is an improvement over the Katuba by-election in July 2019 when the ECZ failed to accredit all of CCMG’s monitors. CCMG also commends the ECZ for its timely communication on the late opening of three polling stations due to logistical challenges resulting from the remoteness of the area and the weather. CCMG notes that the pre-election period did not have any instances of politically-motivated violence and provided opportunities for both contestants to campaign in the area. CCMG recommends that the ECZ and political parties enforce all codes of conduct and non-violence pledges, and hold the perpetrators of politically-motivated violence to account.

CCMG would like to thank its 40 observers from our four member organisations who deployed on 5 December. CCMG congratulates those citizens who went to the polls to exercise their right to vote, and CCMG appeals to political parties and their supporters to reject violence.

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