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EU Observation Mission report reveals a slow down in Zambia’s electoral reforms process


Zambia’s reforms on the electoral process, rule of law, civil liberties and media freedom, have reportedly slowed down under President Hakainde Hichilema administration.

This is according to the 2021 European Union Elections Observation Mission’s report, presented to acting Foreign Affairs Minister, Mulambo Haimbe, by the EU Ambassador, Karolina Stasiak, in Lusaka on Wednesday.

The report had been attributed to government and President Hichilema’s focus on economic reforms.

It further stated that there was limited progress in implementing the 2021 EU Observer Mission recommendations.

The report highlights that: “only the Access to Information Act had been fully implemented and the criminal defamation of the president partially achieved out of 22 recommendations made, while others remain uncertain.”

It further submitted that while the political will for electoral reform existed, relevant initiatives are at an early stage, appeared to be uncoordinated and partly overlapping.

The report noted that this was as a result of President Hichilema’s administrations’ failure to prepare a roadmap.

The EU follow-up mission recommended for an urgent establishment of an inclusive and transparent electoral reform process.

“This is to achieve comprehensive and effective electoral reforms before the 2026 general elections provided that government and the legislature prioritize such reforms on their agenda,” it said.

The report was the outcome of a visit by Chief Mission Observer, Maria Arena, member of the European Parliament and her expert team, conducted from October, 15 to October, 28, 2023 and from January, 22 to February, 4, 2024.

The team was in the country to assess the implementation of recommendations presented to Zambian authorities following the 2021 elections.

Under the report, Arena urged the Zambian authorities to accelerate electoral reform initiatives well before the 2026 general elections.

“This is to ensure a level playing field for all contestants in line with Zambia’s international and regional commitments,” she said.

Arens highlighted that the 2021 EU EOM proposed 22 recommendations, including six to be considered as a priority.

“Two recommendations related to the enactment of the Access to Information Act and the removal from the Penal Code of the criminal defamation of the President have been implemented,” she stated.

Arena noted: “The passing by the National Assembly of the Access to Information Act is a positive step in the right direction.”

She noted that the law had some strong points such as its broad coverage of the legislature and the judiciary and the power of the Human Rights Commission to impose administrative sanctions on officials who fail to respect the law.

“However, it lacks, among others, a broad definition of information and does not clearly overrides secrecy provisions in other laws. We look forward to seeing how the law will be implemented,” Arena noted.

Read More: Zambia requests EU to implement ‘strengthening democracy initiative’ ahead 2026 elections (Video)

She pointed out that two and a half years before the 2026 general elections, the window of opportunity for comprehensive and effective legal reforms is getting narrower and encouraged the government and all electoral stakeholders to accelerate work.

Arena said repealing the Public Order Act, enacting legislation on political parties and revising the legal framework governing the media and ICT sector were highlighted as key to ensure a level playing field ahead of the 2026 general elections.

She underlined the importance of transparency in the electoral reform process, inclusion, and cooperation of electoral stakeholders with the ECZ, including civil society organisations and observer groups.

“The EU and Member States will continue to support electoral reform initiatives in Zambia,” Arena assured.

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