By Sycorax Tiyesa Ndhlovu
The August, 2016 presidential and general elections seem to be exclusively unique which, if not properly handled, can erode the peace and stability Zambia has enjoyed for many decades now. In addition to the common political violence, potential presidential re-run can threaten peace and stability in this country.
Among the major contributing factors making the August, 2016 presidential and general elections peculiar and volatile are the constitutional requirements of the winning president to garner 50 per cent plus one vote; many political parties taking part in the elections and the increasing trend for regional voting patterns.
In other African countries, such a clause and some of such factors created the need for a presidential election re-run. Such a situation threatens peace and stability in a country.
As a result, in some African countries, including some citizens in Zambia have been skeptical about including 50 per cent plus one vote clause in the republican constitution because, if not properly managed, can lead to unprecedented political violence that can breed bloodshed and loss of many lives in a country.
Zambia has a potential for such bloodshed because of the many political parties which participate in elections. Regional or tribal voting patterns are also a recipe for potential challenges for one presidential candidate achieving 50 per cent plus one threshold. It can be worse if political violence continues before 2016 elections.
Henceforth, it has been argued that no single party can win this year’s presidential and general elections under such circumstances unless through a political alliance.
Such an observation in Zambia seems to be correct; and if political parties and their respective leaders are too confidence to win such elections without forming political alliances; then, we might have presidential re-run or re-runs. But presidential re-run or re-runs can not only be costly for our economy but can also threaten peace and stability in Mother Zambia.
With only two or three strong parties participating in the August, 2016 presidential and general elections, one of the contesting presidential candidate is likely to win with a convincing victory that will erase the potential presidential re-run.
It is from such a background that President Edgar Chagwa Lungu and the Patriotic Front (PF) is inviting other political parties such as the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) to form a pact before the stated elections.
To some people, President Lungu’s invitation to other political parties can be perceived as a sign of President Lungu’s and PF’s weakness to single-handedly win such elections. But to some patriotic Zambians, this is wisdom and a strategy to avoid the possible political crisis that might emerge if each political party is over confident in winning the August, 2016 presidential and general elections without forming alliances.
Formulating such a strategy is likely to reduce not only the number of political parties participating in this year’s elections but will also diminish regional voting patterns. And more importantly, this will also lessen political violence before and after such elections. To achieve this, a winning president is supposed to win with convincing vote. There should be a wide margin between a winning president and the one trailing behind him or her.
Therefore, all political leaders who have a heart for Mother Zambia shouldn’t hesitate to form appropriate political alliances before it’s too late to do so.
But as PF secretary general, Davies Chama observed, when two or more political parties form a pact, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those parties have dissolved themselves; and that now are one party. Political alliances are temporal arrangements for a specific time frame to serve a specific purpose.
Therefore, such pacts for August, 2016 presidential and general elections are to ensure that there is a 50 per cent plus one threshold for a winning president with a view to prevent presidential election re-run which might have catastrophic consequences as far as loss of lives through political violence are concerned.
But don’t go into alliance with any political party just for the sake of it. Although each party is free to form an alliance with any political party, consider many factors before doing so.
Start looking for political parties that have similar ideologies with your party. Consider personalities of presidential candidates in each party before you want to go into such alliances with. Humble, flexible and accommodating presidential candidates in a party are good allies for such an arrangement.
Consider experience in national governance, managerial and leadership skills. Failure to consider such factors might lead to many internal ruling party governance related conflicts after the 2016 presidential and general elections.
Therefore, political parties with a national character are potential parties to go into alliance with.
This implies that it’s advisable for perceived small parties to join the big, strong and reliable political parties (to borrow ZANACO slogan) to contribute to sustaining peace and stability in this country.
For instance, political parties which have been ruling parties before can easily understand practical minority; but sensitive issues relating to governance. Therefore, while managerial skills are importance in national governance, transformational leadership skills are also essential in government leadership.
Alliances with parties with presidential candidates who have both managerial and transformational leadership skills can be beneficial for all Zambians. We need presidential candidates with people skills to harness the human capital into national economic development processes. And those with experience in government political leadership before might easily connect and continue facilitating socio-economic advancement to create more jobs and reduce poverty levels.
Form pacts with pro-poor parties; and not necessarily with capitalistic minded parties. MMD and PF laid and are laying respectively a strong foundation for Zambia’s sustainable socio-economic development process through favourable economic and investment policies and infrastructure development throughout the country.
Therefore, learning that MMD’s leader, Dr Nevers Mumba is considering meeting President Lungu to share the conditions for the possible political alliance between PF and MMD proves that the two political leaders aren’t looking at short-term and personal interests; but both have a bigger picture and the heart for Zambia and its citizens.
And for PF to form a political alliance with MMD, the latter’s members of parliament (MPs) and former republican president, Rupiah Banda are key to such a process.
MMD’s MPs and Mr Banda should facilitate such a pact to sustain peace and stability in this country. They should all look at long-term benefits of such a pact for Zambia. Zambia is bigger than political parties. It is bigger than our individual interests.
It must be remembered that Zambia has recorded high marks in moving from one party state to multi-party politics’ peacefully. It has also done so in handing over power peacefully from one president to another. Let’s also do it with a 50 per cent plus one vote threshold peacefully to the amazement of many other countries world over. Let’s continue being an icon for sustained peace and stability in a multi-party democracy in Africa.
In this light, any patriotic Zambian citizen commends political parties which have already started discussions for or have gone into political alliances as such strategies will ensure peace and stability after August, 2016 presidential and general elections.
Only when there are many presidential candidate scrambling for about five million or less registered voters with regional voting patterns can there be a re-run of presidential election. This is what President Lungu and other political leaders are trying to avoid by soliciting going into pacts with other parties.
So, the more than 32 registered political parties should all look around for a potential political party to go into alliance with to ensure that peace and stability prevails after the 2016 presidential and general elections. Don’t be over confident of your scooping 50 per cent plus one vote of the total votes cast without a pact.
If only two or three major parties participate in the next elections with reduced tribal voting patterns and no political violence, peace and stability in Zambia will prevail after the August, 2016 elections.
Because of the dangers of all parties contesting such elections single-handedly, Zambians will hug political parties and their respective presidential candidates who will facilitate formation of two or three strong parties contesting in the 2016 presidential and general elections.