A number of politicians vying for public office in Zambia’s 2021 General election, may end up dropping out of the race, before voting begins, thanks to the out of reach nomination fees that have been pegged by the country’s electoral commission.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), is asking for $5,000US for the top office, over $800US for parliamentary candidates and other high fees for local government level positions.
Elections May Become The Preserve of The Rich
The fear by many is that the election may end up being only for the affluent and leave out some good candidates who are poor.
For example, they say, there may be people with the most intelligence but have no money, those with less intelligence who have money, and the former would fall off, because parties would adopt those with money, who are able to fund themselves, to be able to be Members of Parliament, Councillors, Mayors and others.
Golden Party Zambia President, Jackson Silavwe, observes that there are a lot of young people and women who would like to participate in the elections, but find the nomination fees to be too much.
“The nomination fees are way above the pay of a graduate,” he claims.
Justification By The Electoral Commission
The ECZ justifies the fees, saying, they need resources to run the election and arrived at them after taking the costs associated, into consideration, adding that they have had to review and adjust the figures downwards after complaints from stakeholders, political parties and civil society.
“We do have to get a little bit of resources to run these processes and activities. So, those are now final figures, which the commission has prescribed and this is the situation as it stands, so, we just have to work with each other and what we would like to say is, for presidential candidates, we would assume that presidential candidates are supported and sponsored by their party officials and the party itself and if everybody put their resources together, you would actually be able to manage this figure, “says Margaret Chimanse, the commission’s Public Relations Manager.
Silavwe, who is also Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue, board chairperson, advises that the ECZ’s mandate is not to raise money from politicians or political parties, but to conduct free and fair elections.
“ECZ’s mandate is to come up with a budget and say, can we have this money, because we want to conduct an election, “he notes.
Before the reduction referred to, by Chimanse, the costs had been pegged at close to $8, 000 US for presidential candidates.
At that time, opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), leader, Hakainde Hichilema said the fees were totally unacceptable and that they restricted politics as the sole preserve of the richest members of the Zambian Society.
This criticism by the UPND and other stakeholders, led to the U-turn by the ECZ, which saw fees reduced to $5,000US for presidential candidates and over $800US for parliamentary candidates.
Nonetheless, a number of citizens feel the revised fees are still high and beyond what most people aspiring for those positions, can afford. This, they say, means that the current leaders may have an advantage over many aspiring ones, because the former are already wealthy.
Such critics reckon that slowly the poor are being side-lined from political leadership.
The few people who have no problem with the fees say democracy is not cheap, but Silavwe, dismisses such statements, saying democracy should not result in pushing people outside the bracket.
The general view by politicians and civil society members who are against the fees, is that the issue of nomination fees has to be resolved immediately, to bring the fees within reach, in order to avoid producing mediocre members of parliament, councillors and mayors, in the next elections.
The 2021 general election is scheduled to take place in August, 2021.