Where does the nullification of parliamentary elections leave that of the president?
The nullification of the Lusaka Central and Munali parliamentary results shows that there was something seriously wrong with the conduct of last August’s elections.
The reasons being given by the courts for nullifying the election results are very similar – corruption, violence and use, or rather abuse, of public resources in the Patriotic Front campaigns. There was terror and it was almost impossible for the opposition to make any meaningful campaigns in Lusaka, the Copperbelt, Eastern, Muchinga, Northern and Luapula provinces and some parts of Central Province. These were more or less declared no go areas for the opposition. As such, and especially in the rural areas, it was almost impossible for the opposition to even put up reasonable evidence required for an election petition.
If the standard set by the judges in the Munali and Lusaka Central parliamentary election petitions is followed, all Lusaka constituencies that the Patriotic Front candidates won will be nullified, probably with the exception of Kabwata where the petitioner abandoned his case and started to aid the respondent.
But already, the Patriotic Front is starting to issue veiled threats to the judges. On Wednesday, Frank Bwalya, the Patriotic Front deputy spokesperson, recorded a statement from himself and posted it in a WhatsApp group saying: “We are shocked that honorable Professor Nkandu Luo has lost her seat through the nullification by the High Court. Nevertheless, our party respects the Judiciary, we respect the decisions coming out of our Judiciary. But this doesn’t mean that we will accept every decision that comes out of our courts, not at all.” What does Frank mean by “this doesn’t mean that we will accept every decision that comes out of our courts, not at all”? Anyway, they have the right to appeal to the partisan and disgraced Constitutional Court where they have some judges who have always guaranteed them the judgments they want.
What this shows is that the Patriotic Front was unrestrained in its anti-democratic conduct. No institution, public or private, could stop them. The police allowed them to engage in unbridled violence, sometimes arresting and charging their victims. The Electoral Commission of Zambia also did nothing meaningful to stop the violence and other electoral abuses of the Patriotic Front.
And where does the nullification of these parliamentary election results leave that of the President? The parliamentary candidates were using the same facilities and methods to also campaign for their party’s presidential candidate. Whatever is found wanting in the conduct of the parliamentary campaign must therefore equally apply to the presidential one because it involved the same people and the same practices. The situation is probably even worse in the presidential election because here, there was outright banditry and manipulation of the Gen 12 forms by the agents of the Patriotic Front’s presidential candidate. And this is the evidence that the Constitutional Court disgracefully refused to hear or see and determine the outcome of the election on it.
We can only hope that our judges will perform their duties with sufficient honour and integrity and to the standard set by justices Edward Musona and Mwiinde Siavwapa. Is this a realistic hope on our part? No. This is rare courage and integrity from our judiciary. This is very, very rare performance from our politically compromised judiciary. We even wonder if these judgments will be sustained on appeal. There is too much at stake for the appointing authorities and paymasters of our judges. If this trend is to continue, the Patriotic Front’s hold on power will be seriously weakened and the security of our partisan judges threatened. This can also mean an end to the Patriotic Front’s dream of amending the Constitution in line with their political desires and aims. The numbers for the required two-thirds majority will simply not be there. It is easy to corrupt three or so opposition members of parliament. But it is very difficult when one starts looking at bigger numbers.
If the standards set in the Munali and Lusaka Central election petitions are followed, the Patriotic Front may even lose its simple majority in parliament. But will this judiciary allow that even if the evidence is overwhelming? Again, the answer is a categorical no. Ours is a judiciary that is a department or section of State House. So there is a limit in how far our judiciary can go in nullifying parliamentary election results that need to be nullified.
However, the question is: where was the Electoral Commission of Zambia which claims to have conducted very efficient and orderly free and fair August 11 elections when all these electoral malpractices were happening? This is an electoral commission that even failed to announce the correct council chairperson election results in a single and simple rural district! Zambians have no alternative but to join calls for the disbandment of this failed, partisan and highly compromised Electoral Commission of Zambia. We are pushing our luck too far by hanging on to an electoral commission that has been increasingly failing us as a nation in the conduct of elections.