In an article published on their Facebook page, Smart Eagles claimed that the large number of petitions on the results of the August 12th General Elections have put President Hakainde Hichilema and the UPND victory under self-sabotage, and question the integrity of various election observer missions. According to Smart Eagles, petitioning raised questions on the integrity of the African Union Election Observation Mission, the European Union Election Observation Mission, the Commonwealth Observers, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) observers and the rest who declared the elections free and fair. They add that because of the integrity of these organizations, Zambia has UPND as a ruling party today and because of the integrity of these organizations, the former President opted not to pursue his claim that the August 12 election was not free and fair. In their report, Smart Eagles claim that hearing that over half of the total number of MPs have petitioned the outcome of the just ended election in Zambia will negatively change the world perception of Zambia democracy and discourage investors. The claim by the Smart Eagles has led to speculations involving misinformation that has the potential to cause many Zambians to lose confidence in the constitutional processes and credibility of international organizations election observer organizations.
The fact checking process has determined as false the claim by Smart Eagles that election petitions have put President Hakainde Hichilema and the UPND victory under self-sabotage. An election petition is a procedure for inquiring into the validity of the election results of Parliamentary or local government elections. According to the laws of Zambia it is a constitutional right, meaning an election petition is under law to challenge the election of a candidate in a Parliamentary, Assembly or local election. Therefore according to article 73 (1) of the Constitution of Zambia, a person may file an election petition with the High Court to challenge the election of a Member of Parliament, which the UPND and any aggrieved party that participated in the just ended general election is at liberty to contest if they are displeased with the outcome of elections, regardless of their political affiliation but rather, based on their constitutional right as is guided. The fact checking process has further established that petitioning results is not questioning the integrity of election observer missions and the rest who declared the election free and fair as is being claimed by Smart Eagles. In an observation of these reports by the international organizations, all made mention of the election as technically managed but marred with unequal campaign conditions, restrictions on freedom of assembly and movement and abuse of incumbency, among other observations. Corroborating this observation by these organizations with one of the many similar grounds of petitioning, UPND’s Bernard Kanengo petitioned Bowman Lusambo’s victory in Kabushi Constituency. In his petition Mr Kanengo makes claims that the election was marred with corrupt and bribery practices. These alleged unequal campaign conditions are the reason and justification for the petition, and if not addressed, are what actually undermine the integrity of the electoral process. In his petition, the concerns raised by Mr Kanengo are in line with the observations that were made by the international organizations. It can therefore be stated that the overwhelming number of petitions by the UPND, opposition and independent losing candidates does not undermine the integrity of the international election observers but instead shows an exercise of democratic rights and freedoms in Zambia that may have been facilitated by the international observers’ presence.