By Dickson Jere
When is one a candidate?
It is at the point of submitting his or nomination papers before the Retuning Officer. Before then, it is not the business of Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to talk about any aspiring candidate. Parties can even change their “adopted candidates” at last minute before one files in the nominations.
Now what is the issue?
Firstly, a candidate becomes candidate when he or she files in nominations as provided for under Article 52 of the Constitution. And so before someone files in the papers, he or she cannot be disqualified by ECZ for whatever reasons. So, ECZ jumped the gun! That statement should have waited until someone filed in the papers. Candidates are only disqualified based on the nomination papers filed and no one can be stopped from filing the papers when on face value he or she has met the qualifications.
Secondly, once the papers have been filed before the Returning Officer of ECZ, then the scrutiny begins. This brings in Article 52(1) which then empowers the Returning Officer to either accept or reject the nominations filed. It is at that point that the ECZ can now talk and explain why the nomination was rejected and not before the submission of the papers.
Thirdly, the person affected by the decision of the Returning Officer has seven (7) days in which to challenge the decision of the Returning Officer in Court. This is under Article 52(4) and the Court has twenty-one (21) days in which to make a determination of the challenge.
Whether one is qualified or not, is subject of the (1) Retuning Officer and (2) Court Interpretation if the nomination was rejected. You only know that the candidate is under age when you see his or her NRC that has been submitted. ECZ cannot go looking for NRCs of people who have not filed nomination papers.
That is why I always guide journalists to choose words careful when reporting about nominations. The mere fact that one has filed nomination papers does not necessarily mean he or she is “successful” until the Returning Officers the declaration at the end of the nomination day.
So, by the end of the day, the Returning Officer will make the announcement as to which candidates have successfully filed theor nominations. And, thereafter, the legal gymnastics can begin.