Thematic Observation of Accessibility of the 2021 Elections for Persons with Disabilities

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Justine Bbakali

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In the lead-up to the elections, the Zambia Federation of Disability Organisations (ZAFOD) conducted a limited observation of the voter registration exercise to assess the accessibility of the registration process for persons with disabilities. Several barriers to the full participation of persons with disabilities were identified and remained unattended to. As such, Zambia’s August 2021 elections presented an opportunity for ZAFOD to assess different aspects of the electoral process in order to provide for an independent and informed evaluation of the general election environment ahead of the August 12 elections as well as key aspects of the accessibility of and participation in election day for persons with disabilities.

ZAFOD observed both the pre-election environment and election day processes in 60 districts across all 10 provinces of Zambia as part of the organization’s thematic observation of the 2021 general elections. In the pre-election period, ZAFOD deployed 20 long-term observers (two per province) recruited from its affiliate member networks across the country to observe and report on the dynamics of the pre-election period for persons with disabilities, and for election day, ZAFOD deployed 74 short-term observers as well as 20 mobile observers to polling stations across the country. ZAFOD’s observers were trained on the principles of non-partisan election observation, the Electoral Code of Conduct, election day processes, and how to fill out their checklists to report their data. ZAFOD’s election day checklist reflected key questions on election day processes, as well as targeted closed-end questions on the participation of persons with disabilities, accessibility, and gender issues. ZAFOD’s Inclusive Electoral Monitoring training were held under strict adherence to COVID-19 mitigation protocols. 

The goal of ZAFOD’s thematic observation of the 2021 elections was to assess the accessibility of electoral processes for persons with disabilities and to make elections more transparent by providing systematic factual information on the conduct of the process, with a particular focus on the inclusion of persons with disabilities. The thematic election observation of the general elections also provided insight on important issues pertaining to the participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process and will support ZAFOD to continue to conduct evidence-based advocacy for improving the accessibility and participation of persons with disabilities in political and electoral processes with its key stakeholders, including media, political parties, civil society organizations and the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).