Feature: Opinions divided in Zambia on whether prisoners should be allowed to vote

Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-10 21:53:30|Editor: huaxia

LUSAKA, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Divided opinions have emerged in Zambia following an announcement that prisoners will be allowed to vote.

This is the first time since the southern nation got independence in 1964 that inmates will participate in voting during the 2021 general elections.

The country's electoral body announced recently that prisoners will be allowed to vote in next year's elections.

This follows a high court ruling which gave a green light for the prisoners to vote. Some stakeholders had taken the matter to court.

However, the announcement has brought divided opinions from different stakeholders, with opposition political parties accusing the governing party of trying to use prisoners to manipulate the elections while the ruling party has stated that there is nothing sinister.

One organization which is elated by the development is the Prison Care and Counseling Association (PRISCA), the organization that had taken the matter to court.

According to Godfrey Malembeka, the organization's executive director, prisoners in Zambia have been denied an opportunity to exercise one of the fundamental human rights for a long time.

He said Zambians can not be talking about democracy when some groups are marginalized.

But Nason Msoni, president of the opposition All People's Congress Party (ACP) said his party is shocked over the announcement to allow prisoners to vote.

He said the move to allow inmates to vote will only benefit the ruling party because they are still many issues that need to be put in place.

According to him, it would be extremely difficult for opposition political parties to have unfettered access to high security institutions like prisons in order to canvass for votes.

The United Party for National Development (UPND) said the decision to allow inmates participate in next year's elections is not welcome.

The party said that the electoral body should have first of all consulted all stakeholders before making the announcement.

But the opposition Green Party says the decision to allow inmates to vote is welcome although the electoral body will have a mammoth task to put in place logistics to avoid hiccups and suspicions.

Peter Sinkamba, the party's president said allowing prisoners to vote is one of the constitutional rights.

Patrick Nshindano the chief electoral officer said the electoral body has already started consultations with stakeholders and was working on modalities on how the process will be conducted.