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Sunday, July 17, 2016
Zambia 2016 Elections
ZAMBIA: CAN HICHILEMA DEFEAT PRESIDENT LUNGU IN THE 2016 ELECTIONS?
The people of Zambia will go to vote in a general election on 11August to elect a president and national assembly. This election will no doubt be a bitter political contest between Patriotic Front (PF) President Edgar I.ungu and United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilcma in the sense that both leaders enter the election bearing deep scars from the time of January 2015 presidential election.
LUNGU'S POLITICAL PERFORMANCE
A professic›nal lawyer and PF Chawama Member of Parliament ― the rise of Edgar I.ungu to high echelons of power in the PF was dramatic. He was appointed to serve as acting Minister of Defence and Justice when Godfrey Mwamba and Wynta Kabimba resigned in 2014. He was later appointed as acting president during the same year when the late President Sata went to seek for medical treatment abroad.
During the presidential by-election held in January 2015 ― President Lungu managed to defeat UPND leader Hichilema by 48.3% of the total votes cast whereas Hichilema polled 46.7%, the remaining votes going to minor candidates.
Hichilema received most votes from the traditional UPND political stronghold of Southern Province, Western and North-Western provinces. President Lungu maintained his political grip on the Copperbelt, I.usaka, Eastern, Luapula and Northern Provinces.
Indeed a political novice without any profoun‹l political conviction, President Lungu failed a majority vote (beyond 50%). Voter apathy was very high and the national voter turnout at 32% was the lowest ever recorded in a presidential election.
The results of the 2010 election must be reckoned from the voting patterns that emerged after the election in the sense that they tended to elicit ethnic and tribal political loyalties.
After having been in power for only a year, President Lungu presided over a deteriorating economy beset by dwindling copper prices, electricity blackouts, rising unemployment and a depreciating Kwacha relative to the US Dollar.
In what seemed to be a dire attempt to shift public attention from the ever deepening economic and social problems President Lungu went on to seek for divine intervention and declared a day of national prayers.
The year 2015 saw the collapse of copper price and the critical shortage of electricity supply to the copper mining sector. This led to hundreds of job losses on the Copperbelt as mining companies sought to remain af1oat. Some 200 discharged miners rioted in Chingola in protest against the layoffs and a few days later some retrenched miners in Kitwe and Mululira (Mopani Copper Mine) staged peaceful demonstrations.
Feelings of political disenchantment are everywhere visible on the Copperbelt
mining towns and in the capital city Lusaka. It is more than certain that the UPND stand a better chance of receiving more votes from the Copperbelt province given the poor performance of President Lungu since he came to power in 2010.
HICHILEMA AND TRIBALISM
A successful business tycoon and veteran opposition politician, UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is again positioning himself as the most likely person to win the 11 August election.
Tribalism remains Hichilema's political brand and this fact easily explains the absence of Bemba-speaking members of parliament in the UPND. The UPND has all the makings of being a tribal party and is strongly supported in Southern Province among the Tonga-speaking tribe.
By portraying himself as a political spokesman of the Tonga-speaking tribe, Hichilema has robbed the UPND of the political sympathy of the heavily populated area of Lusaka, the Copperbelt, Luapula, Eastern and Northern Provinces.
In Zambia, like every capitalist country around the world, politics is perceived as the preserve of the rich and wealthy classes in the sense that it is only those who enjoy political and social privilege who can afford to merchandise their political egotism.
It has come to pass that many people feel that politicians cannot be trusted as they have some selfish and opportunistic ambition to achieve wealth and power. This reduced view of politics is supported by the very presence and domination of the political scene by very few and by some politicians criss-crossing party lines. Corruption in Zambia has become endemic in the public service for the mere fact that the abuse of public funds and property is deemed an injury to none.
The political fortunes of the UPND took a dramatic turn when some senior members of the ruling PF and of MMD joined Hichilema's campaign team. These recent political defections to UPND could foreshadow a future in which the UPND will at last shed off its tribal complexion as those from the PF hail from Luapala and Northern Province. It remains to be seen whether that will be an advantage to Hichilema.
If Hichilema manages to receive votes beyond 50% + 1 this time around his success will be attributed to the political influence and efforts of the PF and MMD defectors. The fact is that nothing will change in the composition of the individuals running the political affairs of Zambia – the same high profile PF and MMD ministers will find themselves serving under the UPND flag.
What cannot be predicted is how deep is the vice of tribalism within the UPND and what effect it will have on the political integrity of Hichilema.