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ROBBIE musakuzi.

Presidential running mate – winning or losing mate?

THROUGHOUT the nomination week, presidential candidates arrived at the nomination centre with pomp and chanting supporters, and for some political parties, pundits waited anxiously to see the choice of their running mates.
Some left it to the very last minute while others had calmed the nerves of the supporters and party members by announcing their running mate much earlier to avoid gossip and innuendos.
All over the world where the system of presidential running mate exists, the choice of a presidential running mate is the privilege of the presidential candidate.
For all other election candidates, the political party top brass and members might have a say, but the choice of a running mate is always the preserve and privilege of the presidential candidate.
This is the reason why the choice of a presidential running mate is closely monitored because it says a lot about the presidential candidate.
For a political party that has the potential to win a national election, the choice of a presidential running mate who also, if elections are won, assumes the position of vice-president of the country is closely watched by the whole nation because it is the first test for presidential candidates to demonstrate their decision-making skills and ability.
The choice of a presidential running mate also demonstrates the kind of characteristics and personality that a presidential candidate values in people.
In other words the character and personality of a running mate magnifies the character and personality of the presidential candidate.
This is how important the choice of a presidential running mate is to the aspiring presidential candidate and the potential voters.
The choice of a running mate has also some other electoral value to the election process but there is none which is as important as that which represents the character and personality of the presidential candidate.
The other electoral value of the choice of a presidential running mate is the issue of addressing the perceived weaknesses and shortcomings of the presidential candidate in the election campaign.
For instance, a presidential candidate who has never held any high elective government position can opt to choose a running mate or vice-president who has held such high positions and has a lot of experience working with parliament and knows how cabinet ministers work so that if elected they both do not cause a breakdown, in the day-to-day running of the government machinery.
The other criterion used by presidential candidates in choosing a running mate and vice-president is to bring unity in the political party.
Every presidential candidate gets to the top party position through competition with other party members. This intra-party competition to find a leader will always bring about some dissatisfaction among some party members and divisions within the party.
If the intra-party divisions become deep-rooted, an aspiring presidential candidate can choose a running mate who will galvanise and unite the party.
According to political scientists and social development experts, the greatest mistake a presidential candidate can make is to abuse his privilege and choose a running mate that further divides the party because that is a recipe for losing an election.
A presidential running mate that the majority of the party members dislike because of his or her character and personality is the surest way that leads to losing an election regardless of how popular the presidential candidate might think he or she is in an election.
It is party members who are registered voters who have the final say to the outcome of any general election.
Dissatisfied but loyal party members who are not happy with the choice of the running mate will pretend to be happy and even attend rallies but on the election day might choose to stay away and not vote.
These are the cases which contribute to the issue of voter apathy. Some dissatisfied but loyal members of the party will choose to exercise their right to vote but will vote for the other candidate and party even if they do not like the other presidential candidate.
These are the cases where some presidential candidates start crying foul that their votes were stolen because they saw their party members going to vote.
The issue of the running mate is new in our electoral process in Zambia but some presidential candidates should have reflected highly on this issue and exercised some deep soul searching.
To choose a running mate on the basis of trying to please people who are not members of your political party through acts such as tribal balancing and giving a national character to a political party is naive and an exercise in political futility.
After so many years of independence and the revival of the national motto of One Zambia, one nation, the majority of Zambians do not see other Zambians through the tinted tribal screen.
The majority of Zambians now look at the character and personality of a candidate. The character and personality of a leader that Zambians want at any level is that he or she must be a God-fearing Christian, hard-working, humble, honest, with a level-headed temperament and in this era with modest education qualifications from recognised education institutions.
The author is a PhD student in Management and Development Studies