By GERSHOM NDHLOVU
ACCORDING to Wikipedia, the free internet encyclopaedia, Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) is an election observation methodology that is employed for independent verification (or challenge) of election results. It involves observation of the voting and counting of ballots at the polling stations, collection of official polling station results and independent tabulation of these results, parallel to election authorities. If the PVT is performed on statistical sample of the polling stations, it is called Quick Count.
Organizers from the Philippine National Citizen Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), says Wikipedia, are widely recognized as the pioneers of the quick count, or parallel vote tabulation (PVT), in emerging democracies. During a 1986 election for President, NAMFREL attempted to mirror the official count of all 90,000 polling stations. They performed a remarkable task in collecting data from the majority of polling stations, and they were instrumental in helping uncover the massive vote counting fraud attempted by Marcos supporters.
The will of the people of a country is the basis for the authority of government, and that will must be determined through genuine periodic elections, which guarantee the right and opportunity to vote freely and to be elected fairly through universal and equal suffrage by secret balloting or equivalent free voting procedures, the results of which are accurately counted, announced and respected. A significant number of rights and freedoms, processes, laws and institutions are therefore involved in achieving genuine democratic elections. This according to the 2005 Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct for International Election Observers, a document endorsed by, among others, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (Read full report here)
But, unfortunately, PVT has sent the Zambian ruling MMD government and its supporters into overdrive threatening Civic Organisations that want to conduct it in this year’s upcoming elections, and its advocates with arrest. The government and those against PVT are foretelling fire and brimstone in the event that PVT is allowed to be carried out. The anti-PVT lobby is giving examples of countries where PVT has allegedly brought about problems, among them, Ivory Coast where both, the sitting president Laurent Gbagbo, and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara have claimed victory and declared themselves president.
I, however, would say that PVT which was conducted by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network in Zimbabwe in 2008 prevented the country’s Elections body from manipulating the results in favour of President Robert Mugabe just in the first round. But since the Elections body was caught out, it took it six weeks to announce the results which saw the election going into a second round run-off from which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirayi pulled out because of violence against his supporters that was perpetuated by ZANU PF supporters.
As for Ivory Coast, the Constitutional Court, chaired by Gbagbo’s crony, overturned the results announced by the Electoral Commission.
Zambia’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Ronnie Shikapwasha who is also Chief Government Spokesman and National Assembly Speaker Amusaa Mwanamwambwa have gone further to say that it is only the Electoral Commission of Zambia that is mandated to announce election results. That, for me, is definitely without doubt but what is at issue is the trust, or worse still, the lack of it that the ECZ attracts.
Much as the argument that there are legal mechanisms in place to challenge elections is concerned, the history of Zambia has been such that once a president has been sworn in, no petition by opposition parties has been ruled against the incumbent president even in the face of glaring evidence of electoral malpractice. To make matters worse, petitions have been known to drag on for years to an extent that by the time they are concluded, it is only a year before the next election.
Election rigging is not so much about stuffing ballots, but what is done before and after the elections. First and foremost, the ruling government which controls some of the media, does not allow such media to give coverage to opposition parties for them to sell their manifestoes and reach out to potential supporters. In the event that the ECZ were to mis-count and erroneously, or most likely deliberately, announced a presidential candidate as a winner, verifying presidential ballots is not easy as PF’s Michael Sata discovered at the last elections when he lost to President Rupiah Banda.
In all this, we are not saying that the MMD should lose elections. On the contrary, we want the MMD to win and win convincingly and the opposition to lose and lose conclusively without crying “rigged”! This is the reason why both the ECZ and the government as the overall overseer of the ECZ, should work on trust that people should repose in the commission. The raving and ranting by government officials and pro-government NGOs is just arousing suspicion as to what the motive of the ruling party is.