The Africa Union (AU) has approved the deployment of a Short-Term Election Observation (STO) Mission to Zambia to observe the country’s general elections scheduled to take place on 12 August 2021.
In a statement on 4 August, the AU said the STO Mission is led by former Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma and composed of former and current African ambassadors accredited to Ethiopia, members of election management bodies in Africa, members of civil society organisations, and independent electoral experts.
The statement read in part:
The Mission’s objective is to provide an independent and impartial assessment of all aspects of the 2021 electoral process, including the legal framework, the political context and the transparency and effectiveness of the electoral preparations, and will operate in accordance with relevant AU and international standards and obligations for democratic elections such as the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance; the 2002 AU/OAU Declaration on Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa; 2002 the AU Guidelines for Elections Observation and Monitoring Missions.
Zambia holds elections amid soaring food prices and economic hardships, high inflation and ballooning external debt.
The copper-rich southern African nation last year became the first country on the continent to default on its debt in the coronavirus era.
The upcoming election is expected to be the tightest contest yet between incumbent Edgar Lungu (64) and his longstanding rival, main opposition candidate and sixth-time-runner Hakainde Hichilema (59).
In the 2016 election, Lungu emerged victorious with 50.35 per cent of the presidential ballots, just enough to avoid a second-round run-off, and Hichilema came a close second on 47.63 per cent.