Zambian Churches Urge Parties to Accept Election Results
Dachs, Bronwen, National Catholic Reporter
Zambia's bishops and other church leaders have urged the country's political parties to accept the election results in which President Levy Mwanawasa won a second five-year term.
Noting that "each election comes with issues that are contested by the political players," the Zambia Episcopal Conference, Council of Churches and Evangelical Fellowship urged "the political leaders and their supporters who may be aggrieved by the results not to resort to violence but to remain calm and use peaceful means of redress."
In a joint Oct. 3 statement from the capital, Lusaka, the church leaders also urged "all those charged with the duty of handling electoral complaints and petitions to deal with these cases expeditiously so that justice is served and not delayed unnecessarily."
Earlier that day, Zambia's electoral commission announced the results of the southern African country's presidential, parliamentary and local elections.
Mwanawasa led with 43 percent of the votes cast, followed by Michael Sata with 27.5 percent and Hakainde Hichilema with 26.9 percent.
About 4 million Zambians, out of a population of about 10 million, registered to vote.
"These results are exactly what we wanted to avoid," said Fr. Joe Komakoma, general secretary of the bishops' conference, noting that churches and human rights groups repeatedly have urged that the president be elected by a 50-percent-plus-one majority instead of the simple majority system.
Also, "the laws as they are now don't deal efficiently with allegations of electoral malpractice," he said in an Oct. 3 telephone interview from Lusaka.
Allegations of vote-rigging and missing ballots, as made by Sata, "cannot be raised until 10 days after the president has been sworn in," Komakoma said, noting that it took almost three years for the courts to resolve the accusations of fraud in the 2001 elections that put Mwanawasa in office. …