Zambia electoral body extends voter registration exercise

A registration officer assists a woman through the process of the voter registration during an exercise in Lusaka, capital of Zambia, on Nov. 9, 2020. A voter registration exercise started here on Monday with Zambia’s electoral body urging eligible citizens to turn up in numbers and register. (Photo by Martin Mbangweta/Xinhua)

Zambia’s electoral body on Saturday announced the extension of a voter registration exercise in order to capture more voters.

The voter registration exercise ahead of next year’s general elections commenced on Nov. 9, 2020, and closed on Dec. 12, 2020.

Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) Chief Electoral Officer Patrick Nshindano said the commission has taken consideration of the concerns from various stakeholders on the need to extend the exercise.

He told reporters during a press briefing that the period of extension will be announced Tuesday next week while the registration of voters was expected to resume on Wednesday.

“The commission has taken into consideration the call for an extension from stakeholders. The commission had earlier indicated that it would review the voter registration exercise at the end which will inform the next steps,” he said.

The electoral body, he said, was expected to conduct a review of the exercise so far before commencing the next period of registration.

The electoral chief however commended citizens for turning up in huge numbers to register, adding that it was the desire of the commission to capture all eligible voters in the country.

He further said it was the desire of the electoral body to conduct a credible election and would do everything possible to ensure that the whole process was credible.

The exercise was conducted in four phases and over 4 million voters had registered up to the third phase with the final figures expected to be announced next week.

The electoral body had projected to register 9 million voters ahead of the general elections to be held on Aug. 12, 2021.

The exercise also included registration, for the first time, of inmates.

The electoral chief said it was encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by the inmates in registering to vote and hoped the targeted 3,000 inmates would be achieved.

Stakeholders had been urging the electoral body to extend the exercise following the poor start of the exercise due to logistical challenges.

A consortium of civil society organization on Friday asked the electoral body to consider extending the exercise in order to capture 75 percent of the projected 9 million voters.

The decision to conduct the exercise had received a backlash from some opposition political parties and civil society groupings who felt it was a sheer waste of time and resources when the country already had a voters’ register.

They felt the electoral body would have just urged those who were attaining the voting age to register.