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Zambia's 2001 Elections: The Tyranny of Small Decisions, 'Non-Decisions' and 'Not Decisions'

Peter Burnell
Third World Quarterly
Vol. 23, No. 6 (Dec., 2002), pp. 1103-1120
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3993565
Page Count: 18
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Zambia's 2001 Elections: The Tyranny of Small Decisions, 'Non-Decisions' and 'Not Decisions'
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Abstract

The course of the 1990s witnessed deterioration in the quality of elections held across sub-Saharan Africa. Zambia's elections for the presidency, parliament and local government held on 27 December 2001 are no exception. They returned the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) to power, but with much reduced popular support and leaving doubts about the legitimacy of the result. A 'tyranny of small decisions', 'non-decisions' and 'not decisions' perpetrated over 12 months or more leading up to these elections combined to influence the outcome. The previous MMD government and the formally autonomous Electoral Commission were primarily but not wholly responsible. For independent analysts as well as for the political opposition, who secured a majority of parliamentary seats while narrowly failing to capture the presidency, identifying the relevant category of 'decisions' to which influences belong and comparing their impact is no straightforward matter. Zambia both illustrates the claim that 'administrative problems are typically the basis of the flawed elections' in new democracies and refines it by showing the difficulty of clearly separating the administrative and political factors. In contrast Zimbabwe's presidential election in March 2002, which had the Zambian experience to learn from, appears a more clear-cut case of deliberate political mischief by the ruling party.

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