THERE are currently more than 30 registered political parties in Zambia out of which less than ten are active.
Soon after the re – introduction of multi-party politics in 1991, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) became the dominant force ahead of the former ruling United National Independence Party (UNIP).
In the years that followed, several MMD splinter groups emerged and tried, in vain, to establish themselves on the country’s political landscape.
Therefore the 1990s saw the rise and fall of what should appropriately be referred to as MMD offshoots like the Caucus for National Unity (CNU), the National Party (NP), Agenda for Zambia (AZ), Zambia Republic Party (ZRP), National Democratic Focus (NDF) and Zambia Democratic Congress (ZADECO) to mention only a few.
Later, in 1998, the late Anderson Mazoka formed the United Party for National Development (UPND) following frustrations in his quest to succeed Frederick Chiluba.
Mazoka was advised against what Michael Sata called “climbing the tree from the leaves”. In compliance, Mazoka joined party structures in Bauleni where he became ward treasurer.
However, his tenure was short lived as the then powerful MMD National Secretary dismantled all party structures in Bauleni paving way for Mazoka’s departure.
Three years later in 2001, the MMD ‘purged’ some of its most influential leaders in the midst of the infamous third term debate. Consequently, the MMD, yet again, gave birth to three more political parties namely the Patriotic Front (PF), Heritage Party (HP) and Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD).
Going into the 2001 elections, Zambians had a wide choice of at least five major political parties to choose from which included the MMD, UNIP, UPND, FDD and HP. By this time, ZADECO was almost extinct and so was AZ. The PF was just establishing itself having formed a few months before the 2001 elections.
Five years later in 2006, competition had shrunk to three parties; the MMD, PF and UPND as UNIP, HP and FDD faded away.
The three horse-race scenario continued to hold through the 2008 presidential by-election and the 2011 elections until the end of 2014. The most recent 2015 presidential by-election introduced a new political order similar to the one seen in 1991 where only two parties were prominent.
In addition, political developments after the 2015 election suggest a continuation of the two horse race scenario unless the likes of Rainbow Party, NAREP and FDD garner enough support to challenge the status quo in 2016.
But the two horse-race political order did not come as a complete surprise because it was earlier predicted by some political observers and analysts. It was a matter of time before political parties collapsed into two main ones as the case is in Britain and the United States of America. Perhaps, Zambian politics were finally approaching maturity where political power oscillates between two major political parties with numerous smaller parties operating in the periphery. However, these political developments have not pleased some citizens who have complained about defections and endorsements among political parties especially those involving the former ruling MMD. One political analyst actually remarked that political parties had ceased to exist in Zambia.
Such remarks come in the wake of a scramble by the ruling PF and opposition UPND for the ‘carcass’ left of the MMD. This scramble was, in fact, the key determinant in the outcome of the 2015 presidential election and may continue to be for the forthcoming 2016 local government, parliamentary and presidential elections.
Dr Patrick Zunga.