We are told that by-elections are not a good measure of a political party’s popularity. Those who argue in support of this narrative claim that it is easy for the ruling party to win parliamentary and local government by-elections because there is always a high concentration of resources in one area, thereby disadvantaging the opposition.
Most recently, those in the UPND have argued that former president Rupiah Banda kept winning parliamentary by-elections for his MMD until 2011 when he had to spread his tentacles and got a whipping from Michael Sata’s PF. They say Mr Rupiah’s MMD poured an unprecedented amount of money into the campaign, but it was not enough because a generalelection is hard to manage.
There is nothing wrong with anyone believing that narrative. Maybe it is true to some people. But our opinion is that the Bembas are right when they say “uwawa tabula akabepesho”, meaning a failure never runs out of excuses.
In our view, if the UPND is sleeping comfortably under a baobab tree in this jungle, waiting for the general election sun to rise, they will wake up to yet another dark cloud. While they are snoring, Chilanga is gone, Mangango is gone, and soon the nightmare looming in the Sesheke by-election will come to life and they will forfeit yet another vital seat from their stronghold.
Is it therefore logical to argue that winning a by-election is very difficult compared to a general election? We don’t think so. If we may ask, how many general elections has the UPND lost for them to seek comfort in this narrative? The UPND has everythingit takes to win by-elections, especially given the public anger against the PF government, but if Mr Hichilema and his team don’t develop clever campaign tactics to navigate the Public Order Actnet, it will not get it easy.
In our early days of publishing News Diggers, we wrote an opinionadvising the UPND to abandon the presidential petition and focus of engaging the voting public, especially in rural Zambia. We told Mr Hichilema; ‘God has heard your petition, please move on’. We further suggested that they shoulddo exactly what the PF is doing now – holding intra-party elections for the lower organs in the build up to 2021; that way, UPND would have kept its structures in the 13, 000 wards intact. But our opinion was met with hostile reactions from the UPND membership.
Today,the biggest opposition party is losing parliamentary seats in its strongholds, but it wants people to believe that this is all as a result of rigging schemes by the ruling Patriotic Front.
What is funny about this is that while losing a key parliamentary seat in UPND-predominant Western Province, the party has the courage of bragging over a ward election victory in Petauke District, boasting that it is a sign of the much bigger general election loss that awaits the PF in 2021.
Like we have said in the past, it is very possible for President Edgar Lungu to lose the 2021 elections, and Mr Hichilema has the potential to form government. But if that happens, it will not be because people will be voting in the UPND, rather they will be voting out the PF and its corruption.
All those who are familiar with the politics happening on the ground in Petauke will affirm that this is exactly what happened in Lusinde Ward of Kaumbwe Constituency. The UPND must try to investigate what kindof campaign its officials mounted in the area to win people’s votes, and they will find out that the opposition party simply benefited from a protest vote against the bickering PF district leadership.
The UPND needs to do self-introspection and find outwhy its councillors are easily being stolen by the PF. It’s easy to say that they are being bribed, but if they can’t find a way of defeating that PF strategy, what makes them think they will have the capacity to defeat the high-level fraud at general election level?
It is really sad for democracy when a party that is considered as an alternative government gets this used to losing elections. Maybe there is a strategy that UPND is banking on, but from an outsider’s perspective, the party seems to have leadership problems and lacks the unity deserving of the biggest opposition. Like we have said before, if the UPND membership wants to operate under the shadow of Mr Hichilema in order to be noticed, while neglecting the rural constituencies of Zambia, they must prepare a lot of tears for 2021.