Columnists Features

Voter turnout a recipe for election results


WITH the number of weeks in single digits before the August 11, 2016 general elections, it is now important for political parties to concentrate energy on converting political rally crowds to voter turnout on election day. Voter turnout is the only recipe for winning an election and fundamental to a healthy democracy.
The crowds that have been attending political rallies for all political parties must now be turned into voter turnout on election day. Political rally crowds do not win an election; it is voter turnout that wins an election. At the moment, nowhere in the world has anyone come up with a system of predicting voter turnout. In other words, no political scientist can specifically predict how many of the registered voters will turn out to vote in any election. It still remains a mystery because every election is unique and controlled by different factors.
What is clear is that the more members of a political party turn out to vote, the better the chance of winning an election. This relationship has been proved over and over again all over the world. The latest was in last month’s British referendum on Brexit or to remain in the European Union. The result of that referendum is common knowledge to everyone. More elderly British citizens who were for Brexit turned out to vote and won the referendum than the young ones who wanted Britain to remain in the European Union.
A closer analysis of the referendum in Britain indicated that with less than 48 hours to go before the vote, all the campaigns and the polls were indicating that those who wanted Britain to remain in the European Union would win but the voter turnout proved all the polls wrong. These are lessons that politicians need to learn. It is not the number of people turning out at your rallies and the amount of personal resources spent on campaigns that win an election but rather the numbers that turn out to vote on election day.
Voter turnout on election day is also directly related to voter registration and mobilisation. In the Zambian political situation, if the opposition parties had shown the same zeal and energy during voter registration that they are showing during this election campaign season, the general elections results on August 11, 2016, would have been very interesting.
Voter identification, voter registration, voter motivation and voter turnout affect the results of an election. It is amazing how political leaders and their supporters in young democracies in Africa fail to understand such simple cause-and-effect relationships in an election process. No mature politician in their rightful mind can declare to have won an election when they have not even seen the voter turnout. It is only a politician with very little understanding of the psychology and mystery of the voting process who can predict that they have won an election before even a single ballot is cast and counted. To borrow words from the late Michael Chilufya Sata (MHSRIP), it is only ‘an under-five politician’ who can declare himself or herself the winner of a countrywide election before the results are announced.
To the Zambian people who have the key to the election results, it is suffice to say that politicians who are declaring themselves winners of an election that has not yet taken place are an indication of the high levels of political disengagement with the people and a recipe for political violence after the results are finally declared.
It is understandable that for some politicians, elections have become a matter of life and death due to desperation and personal resources being invested. Because of the social and economic environment in the country, some politicians cannot now see the difference between those that are exaggerating their popularity and the reality of the situation. Many of these political cadres know that this is the only time they can milk politicians by exaggerating their popularity.
It will be of great help to some politicians in Zambia to understand that the field of politics is not like that of economics and business studies. In these fields, proven laws and theories lead to success and accumulation of wealth. In politics, you can only talk about chances and probabilities of winning . There are no laws and theories to use in order to make it to the top. In fact in politics, it is not your ability that makes you to succeed but what people see in you.
That is why it is very unfortunate for some political leaders to tell Zambians that it is now their time to be president when actually it is the Zambian people who should be saying it is now your time to be president. That is what people said to Dr Kenneth Kaunda in 1964, Dr Frederick Chiluba (MHSRIP) in 1991, Dr Levy Patrick Mwanawasa (MHSRIP) in 2001, Mr Rupiah Banda in 2008, Mr Michael Chilufya Sata (MHSRIP) in 2011 and Edgar Chagwa Lungu in 2015, and when people say it is your time, no one can say otherwise because as is often quoted, Vox populi, vox Dei, translated as “The voice of the people is the voice of God”.
The author is a PhD student in Management and Development Studies.


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