One of the mandates of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (the Commission) is to manage electoral conflicts and resolve disputes. This mandate is set out in section 113 of the Electoral Process Act No.35 2016. In pursuance of this mandate the Commission has established Conflict Management Committees at national and district levels.
These committees are composed of a Chairperson appointed by the Commission; a Vice Chairperson; One representative from each registered political party; representatives of civil society organizations and representatives of such Government ministries and institutions as determined by the Commission, such as the Zambia Police, Anti Corruption Commission and the Drug Enforcement Commission; and the secretariat.
The Committees are mandated to manage and resolve electoral conflicts in a prudent and timely manner, with a view of achieving peaceful elections and mutual resolutions through mediation of conflicts that arise in the electoral process. This is done through the publication and enforcement of the Electoral Code of Conduct which regulates the conduct of the media, polling agents, political parties, monitors, observers and candidates during elections.
Apart from receiving complaints from electoral stakeholders on alleged breaches of the Electoral Code of Conduct, the Committees also attend to complaints based on alleged bias by electoral officers appointed by the Commission. This is cardinal for the holding of free, fair and peaceful elections.
The National and District Conflict Management Committees have powers to:
- Mediate electoral conflicts
- Advise the conflicting party in an election conflict
- Report the matter to the police for further action where a crime is committed during elections, for example, assault
- Recommend the revocation of accreditation of any monitor or observer to the Commission.
While the Committees have overriding powers and responsibilities to mediate electoral conflicts, they cannot make certain decisions which are reserved for the Commission and the Judiciary. The Committees hence;
- Do not have judicial powers
- Do not have powers to disqualify the candidature of any person participating in the elections
- Cannot declare or announce the election results
- Cannot order the recount of votes in case of a dispute over election results
- Cannot usurp the role of election officers during elections
- Cannot fine or imprison an offender.
CHANNELING OF COMPLAINTS
Complaints to be resolved by the Committees should be in writing and addressed to the area Town Clerk/Council Secretary or to the Electoral Commission of Zambia. The Committee Chairperson shall inform the Committee members about the complaint received and a meeting shall be held within 24 hours of receipt of the complaint to assess whether the complaint should be handled by the Committee or referred to Law Enforcement Agencies.
The Electoral Code of Conduct directs that Conflict Management Committees shall resolve or encourage amicable settlement of disputes within twenty four (24) hours from date of receipt of the complaint.