On Tuesday, October 28th, our fifth republican president, Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata died in a London hospital. According to our current constitution, Article 38 (1), if the Office of President becomes vacant by reason of the President’s death, an election to the office of President shall be held in accordance with Article 34 within 90 days from the date of the office becoming vacant. Accordingly, the Acting President Dr. Scott, on November 18th, 2014 announced that the by-election was going to be held on January 20th, 2015. In the run-up to the election, I want to share with you my reflections on this forthcoming election. All the figures that I have quoted here are from the official results on the website of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ). [http://www.elections.org.zm]
|The late fifth republican president, Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata|
Certified Register of Voters as of November 2014: 5, 166, 088
Voter turn out in 2011 was 2, 772, 264, representing 53.65%
2011 Presidential Election Results for the top 3
Michael Sata: 1,170,966 42.24%
Rupiah Banda: 987,866 35.63%
Hakainde Hichilema: 506,763 18.28%
Voter Turn Out
Generally, voter turnout during By-Elections is far lower than during scheduled Presidential and Parliamentary elections. In the 2006 Presidential election, for example, the voter turn out was 70%, compared to the 45% that cast their votes in the October 2008 By-election. Interestingly, more people voted in the 2006 Presidential election (2, 789, 114) than did in the 2011 election (2, 772, 264), in spite of 1, 223, 019 people being added to the voters’ roll in 2011. In all of the 22 parliamentary by-elections held between November 2011 and September 2014, the average voter turn out was 36%. The highest turn out was recorded in Mufumbwe, North Western Province at 51%, and the lowest was Mkushi North, Central province at 16%. It is highly unlikely that the trend of low voter turnout during By-elections will be different this time around. My estimate is that the voter turn out on 20th January will be way below 50%.
POINTS TO PONDER
1. A Two or Three-Horse Race?
The race to Plot One is evidently a two-horse race between Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu and Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, with Dr. Nevers Mumba as the only other candidate posing any real challenge. There are eight other political parties contesting the presidency, four are new entrants, while the other four are not strangers on the Zambian political scene. None of these four candidates who participated in the 2011 Presidential Election got above 1% of the total votes cast. Is it possible that they will move a notch higher this time around? May be, but not significantly higher as to pose any real challenge. Although they say there are no underdogs in elections, I think we must admit that we have real underdogs here from whom little is to be expected.
2. Mr. Sata and PF’s Performance in 2011
The late president, Mr. Michael’s Chilufya Sata won the 2011 Presidential election via commanding leads in the four PF stronghold provinces: Copperbelt, Luapula, Lusaka and Northern. He got a total of 960, 707 from these four provinces alone, and only 210, 259 from the other five provinces. A total of 1, 489, 353 votes were cast in these four provinces, meaning that 528, 646 voters in these four provinces voted against the PF. Nationally, of the total votes cast, 1, 601, 298 voters rejected Mr. Sata. His, and the PF’s worst performance was in Southern province where Mr Sata got 3.82% of the total votes cast, and North-Western province where he got 5.95%. In the light of this, the crucial questions are: Has the PF been growing in popularity in the last three years or has it been losing ground? Has it consolidated its position in its strongholds or it has lost a marginal or significant edge? After the demise of its founding president, will the PF still command the same lead or even more nationally? Has the RB factor brought a positive difference that will result into additional votes than in 2011? How well received by the Zambian electorate has been this marriage between RB and Edgar/PF? One is reminded of the marriage of reconciliation between Herod and Pilte occasioned by their dealings with Jesus Christ. We will only know the answers to these questions after January 20th.
|PF candidate, Mr. Edgar Changwa Lungu|
3. The RB Factor in 2015
Mr. Rupiah Banda came second to Mr. Sata, but due to a court ruling, he has been barred from contesting the presidency this time around. He is, however, backing Mr. Edgar Lungu. The MMD, Mr. Banda’s former party, is fielding Dr. Nevers Mumba. Will the 900, 000 plus votes that Zambians gave Mr. Banda in 2011 automatically go to Dr. Mumba? This is very unlikely. Three factions have emerged in the MMD: Those supporting the former ruling’s party’s official candidate; those who have endorsed Mr. Lungu and those backing Mr. Hichilema. And those 900, 000 plus votes are likely to be split among these three factions. The question is, which faction is likely to capture the highest number of these “MMD” votes?
Mr. Banda had outright wins in four provinces: Central (108, 912); Eastern (233, 528) North-Western Province (86, 994) and Western Province (62, 592), giving him a total of 492, 026. These four provinces have a total of 1, 794, 093 registered voters, though only a total of 909, 362 votes were cast in 2011. So Mr. Banda’s former votes in 2011 will prove very crucial in the 2015 polls. Who, between the two main contenders, three if we add Dr. Mumba, will have a larger share of Mr. Banda’s former loyalists? Mr. Banda’s backing of Mr. Lungu suggests that the latter might get the lion’s share of these votes, especially in the Eastern Province where some influential MMD members of parliament have thrown in their lot with Mr. Lungu. Out of the total votes cast in these four provinces, 417, 336 voters did not want Mr. Banda. How these will vote on 20th January will be very crucial.
4. HH Flight 2015
From the analysis of the 2011 Presidential election, it is clear that Mr. Hichilema’s third position was actually a distant third. He was beaten by 664, 203 votes by Mr. Sata, and trailed Mr. Banda by 481, 103 votes. A tall order to bridge this disparity stands in the way of the UPND candidate. HH was the first candidate to kickoff his campaign while the PF and MMD were still embroiled in intra-party brawls over the selection of a presidential candidate. Indeed, this early start was necessary. There has been a lot of work for the UPND campaign team to do.
|UPND candidate, Hakainde Hichilema|
Compared to the MMD and the PF who shared four provinces each, UPND only won in Southern Province, and was second in two provinces, Western and North-Western. Western and North-Western provinces together gave him a total of 114, 230 votes, and from the rest of the 8 provinces, he got a total of 240, 009. Out of these 8 provinces, Luapula and Northern province voters gave him the lowest votes, 1, 758 and 2, 935 respectively. Nationally, 2, 265, 501 voters rejected Mr. Hichilema. The odds seem to be against him. For him to overcome this tall order, he needs to attract not less than half a million new voters rooting for him.
But there are a number of factors that cannot be ignored. The endorsements that have gone his way are not mere rhetorical statements that amount to nothing. Isn’t there likely to be an improvement in Northern Province for UPND with the backing of GBM? Is this a non-issue which will not affect the voting pattern in anyway? What about a handful of MMD MPs from Luapula, Northern and Eastern Provinces that have become foot soldiers out on the campaign trail for HH…do they have the potential and capacity to tilt the fortunes, though marginally, in his favour? The same can be said about the North-Western Province. HH and his team pounded the campaign trail much more vigorously than any other party. And they are buoyed by the parliamentary by-election victory they bagged in Solwezi Central in September 2014. Will that tilt things in HH’s favour or will the last gasp foray by the PF into the area erase the footprints the UPND earlier planted there?
5. My Prediction
If this heading above has attracted you to read on, I am sorry for disappointing you, because I will not predict who the winner will be. I am not a prophet, nor a son of a prophet. But what am I predicting? Well, the following:
a) If the voting pattern does not change along party lines as it was in 2011, then PF will definitely carry the day. But everyone knows that political fortunes sometimes change overnight, especially this year when we have had made political changes whose ramifications are far-reaching.
b) The PF record in Western Province the last three years will prove very telling in the number of votes they will manage to get in this politically conscious and literate province. RB was rejected over the Barotse Agreement in preference for Sata who made monumental pronouncements to the people of Western Province. The promises were never carried out, and the people are hurt. The number of votes for the PF, and those that were given to RB who scooped the province in 2011, will significantly reduce. And I think it will be HH, and not Dr. Mumba, who will benefit more from this shift.
c) What is likely to happen in Western Province will be mirrored in the North-Western Province, which has felt neglected in the last three years of PF’s rule. Contributing significantly to the national GDP through the thriving mining investments in the area, there is still little to show forth by the PF by way of new infrastructure as has been the case in other provinces which have seen unprecedented levels of development. What is likely to happen is that a large portion of 2011 RB votes will be shifted to HH, and at the same time, the PF might lose some votes. The Solwezi Central parliamentary by-election seems to have set the tone last year. It should also be noted that the North-Western province has a respectable record when it comes to voter turn out. At 54.88% in 2011, this was the fourth best. The highest record is held by the Copperbelt (59.5%), followed by Southern Province (58.04%) and third is Northern Province (57.28%). Central Province was the least at 46.87%.
d) Northern and Luapula provinces might remain largely unchanged, that is as a stronghold of the PF, but it is likely that the GBM and Katele Kalumba factors, and the Kulubemba saga might give marginal gains to the UPND. Even when you take into consideration, the son of Chinsali, Dr. Mumba’s faction, the writing is clearly on the wall, that the PF has firmly planted its feet in these two provinces.
e) It is also unlikely that Copperbelt and Lusaka Provinces will see the PF being dislodged from their commanding presence. But the voting pattern might probably differ between the urban and peri-urban areas. For example, Mandevu and Chawama constituencies might record a landslide for PF, but they might not enjoy similar popularity in Lusaka Central and Munali. Similarly, Kitwe will go for “Pabwato” while Ndola rural might move forward with “Pakwanja.”
f) For Southern Province, it is a foregone conclusion how the votes will turn out. It will be a massive landslide victory for HH, with almost everyone who gave him their vote in 2011 remaining virtually unchanged, and he is also likely to dip deep into the former MMD/loyalists’ vote bag.
And when all is said and done, as God’s children, we understand that it is God who sovereignly commands who He wills into leadership positions. This doctrine presents some difficulties and questions in our human reasoning. But let us caution ourselves not to impose our human emotions into any determination of the will of God, but instead let us reverently recognize that it is God that will be in control on 20th January and beyond “…the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will and sets over it the lowliest of men.” Daniel 4:17. God bless our country, Zambia.