LUSAKA, May 12 (Xinhua) -- As campaigns ahead of this year's general elections start, heightened political activities are set to grip Zambia as various political parties take to the streets to woo voters.
The country's electoral body on Tuesday evening officially announced the campaign period which will run from May 12 to Aug. 11.
Presidential candidates will start filing in nomination papers from May 17 to 20, with each candidate expected to provide 1,000 supporters from all the country's 10 provinces.
Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) Chairperson Esau Chulu appealed to all political parties to adhere to the electoral code of conduct.
Political parties have also been discouraged from holding public rallies in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.
This follows the development of standard operating procedures against COVID-19 aimed at guiding stakeholders' conduct in relation to the election calendar.
On the other hand, the media has been advised to conduct fair coverage to all political parties participating in the general elections.
Civil rights activist Brebner Changala, however, has questioned the electoral body's decision to discourage political parties from holding public rallies.
According to him, the move will disadvantage opposition political parties because there were no proper measures outlined to ensure a level playing field for all parties participating in the elections.
Also, a source of concern is the problem of violence that has characterized previous elections. Zambia's elections have been marred by violence since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in the 1990s. Journalists have not been spared as they have been caught up in violence perpetrated by supporters of political parties as they discharge their duties.
The police have this time warned that they will not allow violence during the campaigns.
Inspector-General Kakoma Kanganja said the police are well prepared to ensure that campaigns take place in a peaceful environment in order to allow all players to present their messages to the voters.
"Political leaders at various levels should play their role of educating their cadres against engaging themselves in acts that may trigger violence. All political parties should conduct constructive and issue-based campaigns devoid of hate speech, inciting violence," he said in a release.
According to him, political activities should be focused on presenting political parties' respective manifestos to the electorate and leave it to the electorate to exercise their constitutional rights of choosing their preferred leaders without coercion.
Daniel Kalembe, a youth leader in Lusaka Province for the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), has called on the youth to desist from engaging themselves in violence as campaigns begin.
He said the ruling party will concentrate on telling the voters the development programs the party has achieved since assuming office in 2011.
"We have told our youths to engage in issue-based campaigns and not to engage in violence," he said.
Another unique feature in this year's polls is that prisoners will also be participating in voting following the amendment of the country's constitution.
About 7.2 million voters are expected to vote in the Aug. 12 polls.
So far, 19 candidates have paid fees to stand as presidential candidates while political parties have started announcing candidates to stand as members of parliament and councilors.