Analysis: PAUL MOONGA
THE recently held 14 local government by-elections on September 14, 2017 in various parts of the country can easily be dismissed as a little trace in the political life of this country.
This is because the number of wards and councils where the elections took place is too insignificant to influence the general posture of the political systems ahead.
How can a political mind ever think that 14 ward and district elections be used to gauge influences of a political mass with an average voter universe of around eight million eligible voters?
Since the 2016 presidential elections that were scooped by President Edgar Lungu, there has been no real political activity that could be used to check whether or not there are new political windows that could permeate new political fever.
In this analysis therefore, I want to enter into a discourse that will make assumptions about how the 14 wards can estimate changes in political profile and how ‘political things never change’ when certain conditions are absent.
In my view, having been an active political player in this country as former MMD district chairperson, former UPND provincial chairperson, former MMD provincial chairman and presently, member of central committee for the Patriotic Front (PF), 14 wards and district elections well spread across 8 provinces out of 10 is more than enough a sample.
An election outcome in Central province is a reflection of the general mood of the people of the nearby geographical spread, like the rest of the provinces.
In my reasoning, the influence of the big political parties in the country, the UPND and PF should be showing during by-elections to reflect a general picture of the results of the inter-party and intra-party happenings in-between elections. These have a bearing on the 2021 presidential election in our situation.
The elections were held in the following provinces and disricts: Central (Itezhi Tezhi and Kabwe districts), North Western Province (Zambezi), Muchinga province (Lavushimanda, Kanchibiya and Chama), Northern Province (Lunte and Kaputa) and Western province (Kalabo district).
Other provinces were Copperbelt (Luanshya and Mufulira) and Lusaka province in Chilanga district.
The elections in these provinces were held at two levels. There were elections for the Council chairperson and ward councilor. In the polls for the position of district chairperson, all voters in the district were eligible to vote even if a particular district had more than one constituencies.
Elections for the post of district chairperson were held in Itezhi Tezhi, Kanchibiya, Lavushimanda and Lunte while ward by-elections took place in Kabwe’s Chililalila ward and in Lusaka the elections were held in Chimanja ward in Chilanga.
There were also ward by-elections in Mabinga ward in Chama in Muchinga Province, Lutomfwe ward in Kaputa, Mpidi Kakong’a ward in North Western Province in Zambezi and Libonda ward in Kalabo.
Out of all these seats, PF won nine seats while UPND won five seats. The combined number of votes scooped by PF stands at 17,877 against UPND which won 13,626 leaving a margin of 4,251 votes.
Even if the UPND and other small opposition political parties put their votes together, they only go as far as 14, 648 votes, far lower by 3,229 votes compared with PF.
So if anyone lays a claim that these elections cannot be used to gauge popularity for the 2021 presidential elections, it will be a misguided position that must be annulled by the wide geographical area the elections have covered.
The UPND remains far behind PF and lacks additives and circumstances that should alter the popularity of PF.
There was a general thinking within the UPND ranks that should party president Hakainde Hichilema be released from detention, his party’s popularity would suddenly sky rocket but the election out-come puts that position to bed.
Any political party that appears close to forming government must demonstrate by showing superiority with figures when there are elections. What defines popularity is the number of people that vote for your political party and not the number of people that attend public rallies.
UPND appears to be struggling against many odds in any political contest against PF.
The genuine service delivery being put together by President Edgar Lungu, the performance of the economy, the absence of a message on the part of UPND to influence voters and the incomparable presidential posture that President Lungu wields against Mr Hichilema are among the factors at play.
There is no surgery that can salvage victory from UPND as long as PF remains alive, and it is alive.
The author is a Member of Central Committee.