BRITISH High Commissioner to Zambia Nicholas Woolley says his government expects that Zambians will be given an opportunity to freely and democratically elect a leader who best represent their views and concerns.

And High Commissioner Woolley says the newly announced ban of PF and UPND political campaigns must be implemented fairly without giving an advantage to the party in government.

In an interview, High Commissioner Woolley hoped that the overall election outcome would reflect the will of the Zambian people.

“The UK has been a strong supporter of Zambian democracy and a core element of that is the elections and the electoral process. We want to see a process that is credible, peaceful, inclusive and transparent. Where votes are cast freely, counting credibly and the overall outcome reflects the will of the Zambian people. So I think all political leaders of political parties have a responsibility to ensure that the actions they take are in support of that process that all Zambians want to see. Free participation in democratic elections is a right that has been fought over for all generations. I hope that all Zambians regardless of your political perspective, party allegiances, you exercise that democratic right to vote this August. To vote for the Zambia they want to see, for the political leaders they feel best represent their views and the policies they want to see adopted,” he said.

And High Commissioner Woolley said violence was completely unacceptable.

He added that the police had a special responsibility to discourage political violence and that anger was likely to flare when people saw that the law was not being applied equally to all.

“We are concerned by any incidence of violence and destroying party posters. Violence is completely unacceptable and there is no place for violence in elections. We have seen some episodes of violence perpetrated by different sides so far in the campaigns and I think every leader, every stakeholder, every system has a responsibility to discourage and call out violence in the strongest possible terms. I think the police have a special responsibility to discourage political violence and anger is likely to flare when people see that the law is not being applied equally to all. So where the law is being broken, police should take action but in a way that is proportionate and seeks to reduce the likelihood of future tension,” High Commissioner Woolley said.

He further said all parties and candidates must be given the same opportunities.

“I note ECZ’s decision today to suspend all PF and UPND campaign activities in four districts. It is important that concrete action is taken to tackle violence and for all political leaders to condemn those who commit such acts in their or their party’s name. At the same time, it is paramount that any restrictions, be they to tackle violence or the spread of Covid, are enforced in a more even-handed and fair manner universally across all parties in all parts of the country than we have seen to date,” Woolley said.

“Should this measure be effective, it needs to be respected by all parties. The risks of Covid are the same so whatever your party or whatever your affiliations, you have a responsibility to ensure that your actions do not lead to the suffering of others. When we talk about the need for a fair election, we talk about the rules that bind one candidate or one party must bind them all. So that means allowing all parties, all candidates the same opportunities to travel where they want and how they want. It means applying the laws and regulations such as the restriction on rallies in an even way to all parties and candidates. And it also means giving all parties, and candidates equal access to state funded state media and I think we need to see much more of this in the next two months of this electoral campaign,” he said.

Meanwhile, High Commissioner Woolley called for members of the public to adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines.

“Obviously Zambia is in the grips of the third wave of the pandemic and it has all the hallmarks of the wave that is going to be even more devastating than the first and second waves were. We have seen a record number of cases, record number of hospitalisations. The first thing I would say is that it is absolutely critical for every one of us to take the steps that will help protect us and those around us using masks, maintaining physical distance, and avoiding crowds. And when there is an opportunity, take the vaccine. Countries around the world are taking measures to mitigate the risk of transmission and spread. Without doubt, it has impacted on freedoms around the world,” said High Commissioner Woolley.

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