The decision by Zambia’s electoral body to increase nomination fees for next year’s general elections has received mixed reactions from stakeholders.
And the bone of contention is the amount of increment of the new fees, with stakeholders complaining that they are too exorbitant.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has proposed an upward adjustment on presidential, parliamentary, mayor and councillorship nomination fees.
The electoral body has proposed that nomination fees for presidential candidates be increased to 150,000 Zambian Kwacha (8,260 U.S. dollars) from 60,000 Kwacha while nomination fees for parliamentary candidates increased to 25,000 Kwacha from 7,500 Kwacha, the same for those vying for mayorship.
Both political parties and civil society groups have described the proposal to increase the nomination fees as too exorbitant and against the tenets of democracy.
The governing Patriotic Front (PF) has described the fees as “elitist” and amounting to the commercialization of participation in democratic processes.
“The Patriotic Front does not support the upward adjustment of nomination fees announced by the Electoral Commission of Zambia. As a militant organization of revolutionary peasants, workers and intellectuals that believe inequitable participation in the affairs of our nation by all citizens regardless of socio-economic status, the party wishes to express its strongest displeasure with the proposed upward revision,” Davies Mwila, the party’s secretary-general said.
He said the party believes equitable participation by all citizens and called on the electoral body to reduce the fees in order to allow more people to participate in elections.
Hakainde Hichilema, the country’s main opposition leader, said the proposed fees were unacceptable and an affront to the principle of constitutional democracy that encourages inclusiveness of all citizens that wish to aspire for public office.
“The fees are unaffordable and are clearly an attempt by the establishment to maintain the status quo and also exclude the youth, the women and other disadvantaged groups that were already struggling,” he said on his Facebook page.
According to him, politics should not be the preserve of the rich only, adding that every citizen that has a vision and the capacity to contribute to the wellbeing of the nation must be allowed to access to enter the arena.
Chishimba Kambwili, president of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) said the increase is unreasonable, adding that there was no need to commercialize politics.
He said the electoral body should have consulted all stakeholders before coming up with the proposed fees.
“If we want to enhance our democracy and have the people’s faith in governance institutions, what is supposed to be done is that they must be consultation,” he said.
Born Short Living Tall, an organization representing the disabled believes that the proposed fees will disadvantage many people with leadership qualities, especially the disabled persons.
“We, therefore, would like to appeal to ECZ to reconsider and bring down the proposed nomination fees especially for presidential, MP and mayoral positions otherwise we would be denying a lot of potential leaders a chance to participate in the governance of our country,” Ntalasha Chisha, the organization’s executive director said in a release.
But Sean Tembo, leader of the opposition Patriots for Economic Progress has welcomed the upward adjustment of the nomination fees.
According to the opposition leader, the proposed fees will help in riddling the electoral process of mediocre people.
Zambia will hold general elections in August next year.