Increase Constituencies [opinion]

From the way political parties unanimously agreed to the call by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to embark on the delimitation exercise to increase the number of constituencies and polling districts, it appears the exercise is long overdue.

It is feared that some voters have been de-franchised not by design but by the long distances to polling stations which is why the Commission wants to adjust the constituency boundaries and the polling districts. This way, voter apathy can also be fought.

ECZ chairperson Ireen Mambilima’s explanation that some constituencies have been posing a challenge to the Commission because they overlap into two or more districts is indeed an oversight that needs immediate attention.

Unnecessarily huge constituencies must be difficult not only for the ECZ to administer but also the Councillors who have one foot in one district and another foot in a different district. The delimitation exercise is a well thought idea which must be encouraged.

What is even more encouraging is that the biggest stakeholders in the exercise, the political parties, are in support of the idea which could expedite the process to ensure by the time the country goes to the 2016 tripartite elections, the new guidelines would have been implemented.

We concur with PF deputy secretary general Bridget Atanga who contends that since the last delimitation exercise in 1991 which saw the number of constituencies increased from 125 to 150, so many developments have taken place to necessitate a new dawn.OPINION

On such development is the establishment of new districts some of which have been established from inside another district. The new districts have caused adjustments to the district boundaries and it goes with reason that even constituencies must follow suit.

It will also be important that during the 2014 delimitation exercise of polling districts, the ECZ must take into consideration the vastness of some constituencies to slice them to manageable sizes aside from the fact that some of them overlap into two or more districts.

There has been a continued cry that some constituencies, especially those in rural set areas, are too vast and with a swampy or mountainous terrain, it becomes difficulty to distribute election materials, much less to conduct voter education which leads to voter apathy.

A case in point are the constituencies in Eastern province that have some polling stations in Muchinga and Central Provinces and are only accessible through the Great East and the Great North roads by passing through Lusaka.

The inaccessibility part could be worked out based on the massive road infrastructure that the Road Development Agency (RDA) is working to open up most parts of the country. The air lifting of election materials has sometimes raised suspicion.

Ms Mambilima’s speech at the liaison meeting with the political parties received the loudest applause when she talked about the need to level the electoral playing field but like the old adage says, a journey of 1000 miles starts with one step.

So the delimitation exercise could kick start many more interventions to remodel ECZ for the commission to improve service delivery as well as retain public confidence.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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