International, Politics

Zambia political parties start preparations for 2021 polls

LUSAKA, March 10 -- Even if elections will only be held in August next year, political parties in Zambia have already started making preparations for the polls.
   Major political parties have already hit the ground running and are busy preparing themselves for the polls.
   Already, the country's electoral body, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), has also started preparations for the polls.
   The electoral body is preparing to conduct a voter registration exercise in May this year in which it is targeting to register 9 million voters.
   Chief Electoral Officer Patrick Nshindano said a new voter's register will be used in next year's general elections.
   Despite Zambia having over 30 registered political parties, only a few have been taking part in elections while many just exist on paper.
   The Patriotic Front (PF), the country's governing party, says it has already started preparing for the elections and has been holding provincial elections to choose leaders in the lower organs.
   Davies Mwila, the party's secretary general, said the party intends to finish holding provincial elections by the end of April 2020 in readiness for the general conference.
   According to him, the party will hold its elective general conference from July 10 to 12, 2020 where leaders, including the party's president, will be held.
   The holding of the convention is in line with the party's and the country's constitutions which call on political parties to choose leaders through the holding of elections, he added.
   While the party has stated that everyone was free to contest for any position at the conference, the secretary general noted that incumbent President Edgar Lungu was the party's preferred candidate to contest the 2021 general elections.
   On the other hand, the United Party for National Development (UPND), the country's main opposition party, says it is geared for the general elections and has already started making preparations.
   Charles Kakoma, the party's spokesperson, said his party has already started preparations for the elections and was currently mobilizing members at the grassroots level.
   The official, however, expressed concern that the party's efforts to mobilize its supporters were being hindered by the police who were stopping them from holding meetings.
   "If we claim to be a democratic nation, all political parties should be allowed to operate freely, but we are being stopped from holding meetings," he said.
   According to him, complaints have been made to both the electoral body and the police command but to no avail.
   He noted that it would not be possible to hold free and fair elections if the playing field is not leveled where all political parties are freely allowed to mobilize supporters.
   Other political parties are also busy moving around the country to mobilize people in preparation for the 2021 elections.
   The Democratic Party, led by former foreign affairs minister Harry Kalaba has been busy trying to recruit people ahead of the elections.
   While political parties are busy trying to mobilize themselves, women in the country feel that political parties should do more to allow women participate in politics.
   Mary Mulenga, chairperson of the non-governmental Gender Organizations Coordinating Council (NGOCC), an umbrella body of women organizations, says political parties need to adopt more women to participate in elections, adding that not doing so is a violation of women's rights.  Xinhua