One of the cardinal points that underpin elections is that people are free to choose whoever they wish to lead them. As such, the constitutions of countries state that any citizen of a certain age can compete for the presidential seat. In practice, however, the people who can actually stand as candidates are very few. These tend to be the very wealthy individuals in society. They are mostly the heavyweights and leading members of political parties.
It is common knowledge that political parties are formed for the sole purpose of winning elections and assuming control of a country. Under the capitalist system, where money is everything, political parties cannot organize and mobilize support without funds. Therefore, those who have a say in a party tend to be the people who pump the most money into it. When the party wins an election and takes control of the state, those who have invested their money and resources into it, now consider it their turn to reap what they sowed. They will hope to recoup the wealth invested and make huge profits. In this sense, the issue of party politics and presidential candidature is big business. This is true of all capitalist parties and candidates. The only difference separating one from the other is in the name.
This fact can easily be gleaned from the opinions of the contending parties on what they refer to as “election issues”. The aspirants to the throne are undoubtedly aware of the ills affecting the society. What they do not know or pretend to be unaware of (in some cases) is how to do away with such problems. As a result they all keep repeating, albeit in different words, the same hackneyed pronouncements that former presidential candidates have always made. No one ever comes up with something new or revolutionary, which of course is not surprising considering the system they defend.
A typical example of this lack of difference between parties or their candidates, and consequently the absence of choice, was recently demonstrated in Sierra Leone. The vice president of Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Solomon Berewa, is the ruling party’s presidential candidate, as Ahmed Tijan Kaba is no longer eligible after having served two terms in office. Last September, a BBC correspondent asked the former how he would move the country forward if elected. His response was, not unexpectedly, as banal as any can imagine. He said among other things that he would make education affordable to all; that he would create jobs, and that he would go all out to attract foreign direct investments to revitalize the economy.
When Ernest Koroma, the flag bearer of the opposition All People’s Congress (APC), was asked a similar question, his response was the same! He would ensure that a high level of employment was attained; he would bring education to the doorsteps of the ordinary people and he would encourage private sector participation in the economy. These answers, puerile as they are, have always been the solutions proffered by every African aspiring presidential candidate for umpteen years now. And why not? They’re sure vote winners. Most people want to be better educated and have better jobs.
It is interesting to know that these kinds of answers are given when the presidential hopefuls are quizzed by the Western press like the BBC, CNN, VOA etc. and why should they not give such answers? They have to because they pander to the expectations of their masters in London, Paris and Washington. They must be seen to be loyal servants of the capitalist system. And so each candidate repackages, in loftier terms, the same bankrupt ideas that the Western capitalist experts made available to them as solutions to Africa’s problems.
On the other hand when they meet the electorate, during their campaign trips, it is a different scenario. Rubbishing opponents, mudslinging, lies and empty promises are what punctuate their speeches.
In conclusion, it is our firm belief that as long as we continue to live in this capitalist system, the “free choice” that is cited as one of the hallmarks of democratic elections will continue to elude us. Democracy under the capitalist system is democracy of the haves, the rich and wealthy. “Democratic elections” are never conducted under the money-dominated system. Democracy, democratic elections and free choice can only be meaningful to all humanity and in the interests of al as a whole when the money system is no more.
RIOTS FOLLOW GENERAL ELECTION
Zambians from different walks of life went to vote in another presidential and general election on 28 September. But to go and vote after every five years is a nasty thing to every person who lives in a society where this political freedom is an appendage to unexplained political and social forces beyond their control
And to those who lack political vision, nationalism conceived under state capitalism (self-reliance) seems to be the revolutionary way to arrest economic underdevelopment. Economic development minus a rise in people’s living standards shall keep on haunting many an African country. It is an economic misnomer that can only be resolved by the workers and peasants themselves.
Unlike the Western countries, where political campaigns are waged through bribing voters, in Zambia the strength of political parties is determined by ethnic and tribal loyalties. Parliamentary democracy entails the acceptance of political plurality and hence the readiness to resolve political antagonisms through open and democratic means (votes). It is the case that in Zambia the political and intellectual credibility of politicians are not taken into consideration by the voters, in the sense that people only vote for a political party to which they have close ethnic and tribal affinities. Thus the outcome of the general election can only be interpreted in terms of the existing ethnic and tribal patterns.
But every class-conscious person understands and appreciates the fact that only the workers and peasants can change the biased and parochial historic condition. It is not the charismatic flamboyance of political leaders, nor the ethnic life blood of political parties that is at stake, but the social and economic system dependent upon the accumulation of profit through the intensification of poverty and misery.
Today the political opposition in Zambia is split into tribal factions. The FDD, UNIP and UPND have banded together and formed a new political party called the United Democratic Alliance (UDA). The unexpected death of the late UPND president Anderson Mazoka has left a political vacuum in Zambia’s domestic politics that the UDA has come to replenish. It is without doubt that the UDA has been created through the political connivance of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, who is nowadays dubbed the ‘father of Zambian politics’.
The ruling MMD (Movement for Multi-Party Democracy) is in command of the largest ethnic and tribal following, in Luapula and northern provinces. However, playing the dirty politics of poverty the MMD has lost working class political sympathy in the Copper Belt – where unemployment remains rampant. It may seem that the privatisation of the giant copper mining conglomerate (ZCCM) was a wrong political gesture by the MMD, because the backbone of Zambia’s economy is copper and nothing else.
Adding to the flames of political mediocrity was the former Minister without Portfolio, Michael Sata, who campaiged very hard on the Copper Belt. Sata has succeeded in creating a popular political party (PF) on the Copper Belt – especially among the disgruntled mining communities by promising that he would nationalise the mining of copper in Zambia if he won the general election.
In the event the presidential race was won by the outgoing president, Levy Mwanawasa, of the MMD who now starts a second five-year term. But it was a sad day for many people in Lusaka and the Copper Belt who had voted massively for Michael Sata, the leader of the Patriotic Front. He came second with 847,000 votes compared to 1,177,000 for Mwanawasa. Third, just behind Sata, was Hakainde Hichilema of the UDA.
The Patriotic Front received a large number of votes in Lusaka, Copper Belt, Luapula and Northern Provinces. It was mostly the workers, university students and the unemployed who voted for the Patriotic Front. But the overall result confirmed that people in Zambia still vote for a political party to which they have close ethnic and tribal affinities. Both the MMD and Patriotic Front lost heavily in Southern Province, the home ground of UDA Presidential contender, but did well in the tribal homeland of their candidates.
The defeat of Sata by Mwanawasa led to widespread riots in Lusaka, the Copper Belt and Northern Province and the result of the general elections have been rejected by both Sata and Hichilema. While Sata won the votes of many workers, the majority of votes for Mwanawasa were received from rural areas – from people who do not appreciate the economic and political implications of modern democracy.
Because the MMD government does not have majority support, it is very difficult to see what tactics President Mwanawasa will use to win the confidence of PF supporters on the Copper Belt and in Lusaka.
The general elections are over and a new government is in office. The workers and peasants remain where they have always belonged: on the leeward side. The general election has not changed the existing political and economic status quo, which will remain so long as the political struggle is waged through political betrayal and character assassinations, and not in the interests of the workers and peasants.
We in the World Socialist Movement are in support of working class political struggle on the principle of international working class solidarity. But we remain opposed to every other political party that aims to reform capitalism. We advocate a classless, moneyless and stateless society – Socialism – as the only alternative to capitalism.
THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF EARLY IN KENYA
Capitalism will not take us anywhere
The backward politics of this country can stem perhaps from the so-called founding fathers. During the clamour for independence, they divided the country into regions and classified people into tribes. Thus if a certain politician stands for election in a certain part of the country and doesn't hail from that tribal region, he/she can't get elected. People believe it's only one of ‘their own’ who can lead or do things better than the other candidates. The situation is exacerbated by the capitalist attitudes of all the leaders (both spiritual and political). They do not help at all. All the political class hankers after is power and power at all costs. They steal money from state coffers just to bribe and induce voters, most whom are poor, illiterate and easily bought.
The so-called spiritual leaders aren't any better. In their sermons they preach the gospel of giving (the more you give the more you get). What they fail to tell their adherents is this: the more you give, the poorer you get and the richer we will become and thus better placed to continue exploiting you and telling you that things have never been better.
Next year's general election will not be different from the ones which have come before. The same faces and characters that have been there since the 1960s are still to be found contesting elections. And none dares to carry the socialist message to Kenyans. It's only a small group of us, as determined socialists, who defy all the consequences and trudge on.
We appeal to the electorate to be wise and recognize that the system as it is designed at present can't help us at all. The country's resources will continue to benefit a minority and the majority will remain impoverished wage slaves as before. The only solution is to replace that system and put in place a society of production is for use and not profit, and in which money will not continue to rule the world. Only then will Kenyans feel they belong to a society of equals. If we follow that route, we'll be getting somewhere at long last.
Patrick W. Ndege. Nairobi