THE Democratic Party has explained its non-participation in local government and parliamentary by-elections.
Party president Harry Kalaba says by-elections are a waste of people’s time and public money.
Kalaba made the explanation on a special interview programme on Choma Maanu radio in Choma on Sunday.
The interviewer, Corhhill Choolwe, and some callers asked Kalaba why the DP does not take part in by-elections, as a way to gauge its popularity.
In response, Kalaba said: “you will see how wise the DP is, after the elections next year.”
“Those by-elections, first of all, are a waste of money. You have failed to put on the payroll teachers who have finished their studies, because you are claiming you don’t have money. But you have money for by-elections!” Kalaba said.
“You can win a by-election but a general election you can’t. In a general election it is each one for himself and God for us all.”
He refused to advertise the DP on a platform of by-elections.
“I mean, there are parties that have been participating in by-elections and they lose when a general election comes. An election is strategy!” Kalaba noted. “Don’t waste your time on by-elections, which you know you’ll not even win. The best thing is to go in an election and win. If DP wins Bahati by-election but they fail to win in Kalomo, in Sinjembela, in Nkeyema, in Lusaka, where will that take you?”
He pleaded with Zambians to: “allow us to do our methodology!”
Kalaba underscored that by-elections were a cancer and that such a cancerous problem needed to be healed.
“By-elections are bad and they are not only bad for political parties, but also for the nation. We don’t need by-elections!” he said. “To say test your popularity; but you are better off testing your popularity here on radio, than to go in a sham by-election.”
Kalaba argued that mobilising party membership in communities was better than going in a by-election where the ruling party would simply bribe prospective voters with money and mealie meal, in exchange for votes.
“Is that how you test your popularity? We’ll not waste our time! When I was in government, I never went [to campaign] in a by-election because I never agreed with by-elections,” he said. “Now, we are in the opposition and I don’t [still] believe in by-elections. We are going to win the elections next year, with or without being part of by-elections. They are going for by-elections; they will be choosing an MP on the 17th of September. [But] seven months later, that MP will cease to be an MP because Parliament will dissolve in May . What’s the point?”
Kalaba asked what difference the members of parliament from Lukashya and Mwansabombwe by-elections would take to Parliament, “apart from just drinking tea and Whiskey and whatever they will be drinking in that Parliament of theirs.”
“[There is] nothing they will do for their people. And you want a party like the DP…Instead of me being in Choma consolidating our party, I should go to Mwansabombwe and go in the wards, start campaigning!” he said. “This government is happy for those parties which are going in by-elections. They (ruling party) will beat them (opposition parties) in that by-election and they will cry during the general election. Why? They have been using the same old method, and expecting to get a different result. It doesn’t work that way!”
Kalaba emphasised that the DP regarded by-elections, at any level, as: “a nuisance.”
“All we want is to get rid of them when we win elections, which we’ll win next year. You don’t need to test your popularity [through by-elections]. [Frederick] Chiluba in 1991 didn’t test his popularity [through by-elections]; the first he went and he won,” explained Kalaba. “[Levy] Mwanawasa didn’t test his popularity, Rupiah Banda didn’t test his popularity. Harry Kalaba doesn’t have to put an MP or a councillor to stand for him to test his popularity. People know me! So, go and vote for Harry Kalaba and the DP, and then you’ll have a chance of new life. So, forget about by-elections.”