ECZ committed to ensure Diaspora voting is actualized in 2026 

 ECZ committed to ensure Diaspora voting is actualized in 2026 

By JOHN SAKALA
Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) Chief Electoral Officer Patrick Nshindano says the Commission is working towards actualizing diaspora voting ahead of the 2026 general elections.

And Mr Nshindano has implored Zambians living abroad to take advantage of the ongoing voter registration exercise and travel to Zambia so that they can register as voters in the 2021 elections, stating that in its current form, the electoral Act does not allow Zambians living in the Diaspora to vote from their respective jurisdictions.

He said this when he addressed Zambians in the Diaspora during a virtual Town Hall meeting organised by ‘Zambians Together’ in partnership with the Zambian High Commission in London. The theme of the virtual meeting was “understanding Diaspora’s right to vote in Zambian elections.”

“The Constitution in its current state does not bar any Zambians from participating in any election. Any Zambian, who holds a green National Registration Card who is 18 years and above is eligible to participate in elections. Citizens in the Diaspora have the right to be able to exercise their vote but not in their respective Jurisdictions because there are certain impediments in the current form. Under the electoral process Act, the current regulations spell out that, firstly, for one to be able to vote, you need to present yourself before a registration officer, so that entails that one has to be physically there,” he said.

Mr Nshindano said the Commission is committed to ensuring that Diaspora voting is actualized as the move would facilitate for upholding of human rights as enshrined in the Constitution, adding that the Commission has since started amending some guidelines to realign the electoral process with the Constitution.

He said ECZ is working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to facilitate for Diaspora voting, stating that there was need to gather statistics to understand the population in the constituencies that the Commission has in the Diaspora.

“ECZ will also have to set up and gazette polling stations and the best jurisdictions would have to be Zambian Missions abroad. For us to do all this, the Missions abroad will have to be included in the delimitation exercise so that they are electoral binding. There are also other administrative aspects that could also speak to legislative process within the regulations; different time zones need to be taken into consideration. I hope that parliament will be supportive of this course. It is critical also to note is that one of the key challenges we face as a Commission is stakeholders buying the issue of voting and in the Diaspora,” he said.

Mr  Nshindano reaffirmed that Diaspora voting was not new to the Commission, stating that despite ECZ attempting to implement it in the previous elections, political parties has always expressed misgivings perceiving the move as a conduit to electoral fraud.

He has since appealed to all stakeholders to come on board and support the Commission in its quest to make electoral reforms.

“If you have been following, the moment it was announced that the Commission was considering both prison and Diaspora voting, there was a lot of push back on the part of the political parties with regards to that, indicating that is one avenue that the Commission and indeed the country would use for electoral malpractice. So, this is where now the voices of citizens in the Diaspora also becomes important for you to see that this is actualized, but also needs the stakeholders to be convinced that this is an important aspect”.

And Zambian’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Lt. Gen. Paul Mihova assured Zambians in the UK that the Mission will continue to facilitate dialogue between the Government and the Diaspora on key issues and thanked Mr. Nshindano for taking time to meet Zambians based in the UK virtually.

Meanwhile, giving a Vote of thanks, Zambians Together Policy and Advocacy Director Chibwe Henry said the Diaspora now understand that the mechanisms, and hopefully, the legislation, to permit Diaspora, who are dispersed around the globe, to participation in the elections, will be in place by 2026.

“We have had an extremely useful and informative evening today because we have learnt a great deal about the Zambian Diaspora’s Right to Vote in General Elections, which Mr. Nshindano has explained. So, for 2021, as Zambian Diaspora, we just need to make sure we present ourselves before the Registration Officer in Zambia.” She said.

Ms. Henry said Zambians Together, with support from the Zambia High Commission, is trying to look forward, to better understand the Government’s mechanisms for implementing the Diaspora Policy; a process that will be achieved through institutions like the Electoral Commission of Zambia.

“We will therefore be conducting a Diaspora-led collaborative in-depth review of the Policy, an exercise we believe is vital as 2026 is the same year in which the Diaspora Policy is set to be reviewed. We are highly indebted to both of these Government Institutions for supporting Zambians Together’s efforts to bridge the gap between the decision makers and the Diaspora community,” she said.

This is according to media statement by First Secretary for Press and Public Relations at the Zambian Embassy in United Kingdom Abigail Chaponda.

 

The Independent Observer

https://tiozambia.com

John Sakala is a Journalist yearning for independent journalism

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