AD47: Zambians gaining confidence in elections as tools for accountability

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Rhoda Chiwele

As one of the first post-independence countries in Africa to effect leadership change through peaceful and competitive elections, Zambia has a history of multiparty politics dating back to 1991, when the United National Independent Party (UNIP) party was removed from power by the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD). After ruling for 20 years, the MMD lost the elections in 2011, and the Patriotic Front (PF) was ushered into power.

As elections for president, members of Parliament (MPs), and councillors continue to be conducted every five years, Zambians are becoming increasingly confident in their elections as tools for ensuring that voters’ views are reflected and for holding non-performing officials accountable, a new Afrobarometer survey indicates.

Almost six of 10 Zambians say elections enable voters to remove leaders who do not do what the people want – almost twice the proportion who held this view in 2005. A majority say elections ensure that MPs reflect the views of voters – again a substantial increase from previous surveys. And more than three-fourths say the most recent national elections, in 2011, were “completely free and fair” or “free and fair, but with minor problems.”

Despite these positive assessments, substantial proportions of the population say that at least “sometimes,” Zambian elections are plagued by intimidation and bribery of voters and unfair counting of votes.