Features

2021 polls: Let the campaigns begin

PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu campaigning.

BENEDICT TEMBO
Lusaka

THE two major political parties – ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and the major opposition, United Party for National Development (UPND), have adhered to the Constitutional requirement of holding internal elections from ward to presidential level.This exercise in itself has been positive in promoting democracy within parties. Yes, somehow these internal elections have brought about competition and public engagement on choices of their representative.The PF has since unveiled its line-up of parliamentary candidates, with the eagerly awaited Copperbelt and Lusaka being the latest.The UPND has, on the other hand, been cagey in releasing the names of its candidates – seemingly struggling to find candidates in some constituencies or simply overwhelmed.There is evidently a lot at stake for both PF and UPND in the forthcoming general elections.For that reason, a lot of planning has gone into it. In business, this is called strategic review and overhaul.When a strategic plan is being overhauled, casualties are inevitable because no-one wants to take hostages, especially when it is a ‘swim or drown’ situation. Some of the former parliamentarians who have not been adopted in both camps were patently exhausted; too much baggage or simply uninspiring.Just like some that have been adopted do not smell very kosher but they have something to add and are willing to die at the battlefront while pursuing the crown prize.In the PF camp, for instance, some former ministers have fallen along the way, so have some Members of Parliament (MPs) and mayors, and so will be some councillors for new brooms. Changes have been necessary to spruce up the political parties and renew their covenants with the electorate ahead of the August 12 general elections. While the Socialist Party is not yet established at ground level,maybe in the next elections, it is good the party is ‘testing’ the waters and was the first to unveil its parliamentary candidates.So much light has been on PF and UPND because they are the country’s major political parties. PF is in office, so it is more attractive and easy to sell.UPND on the other hand, is the major opposition party with a good number of MPs, hence its adoption process attracting equally substantial public scrutiny.With adoptions in most constituencies likely to be completed by the major political competitors, the country waits to see who will run on the tickets of the former ruling parties: The New Hope Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) has been active largely due to the effects of the split and court cases over who should lead while United National Independence Party (UNIP) is recovering from the Kaunda dynasty.UNIP ruled for 27 years from
1964 up to 1991 when the country embraced multi-party democracy and handed over the baton to MMD, which governed for 20 years (1991-2011).Democratic Party is yet to officially announce its team, so is New Heritage Party although most of their members have been canvassing for adoption by interacting with voters. There has been a significantly high number of people who have been lobbying to be adopted for this year ’s elections but have not been picked.As a result, the country is likely
to see an unprecedented number of independent candidates, many of who might do very well.We are also likely to see gaps in some Lusaka, Copperbelt and Southern Province constituencies being quite close because the voters may be fatigued with some candidates who may apparently have been imposed, hence vote against them in protest.Democracy has been defined basically as the rule of the people by the people for the people. This implies that voters should have a biggest stake in determining who presides over their affairs,including who they want to represent them in parliament;therefore primary elections at party level, should reflect the desires and aspirations of the people in a particular area.The importance of primary elections is that they are an indicator of the electorates’ choice.They should be respected and not be viewed as an exercise whose result can easily be overturned.Political parties will do well to understand the importance of primary elections in determining the performance of adopted candidates in the general elections.A lot of drama is expected on the political scene as campaigns for the August 12 elections officially kick off this weekend.It is game on.The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail




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