It’s difficult to predict the outcome of 2021 polls

Edgar Lungu (C, in black suit), leader of the Patriotic Front party (PF), dances before addressing his supporters during a rally ahead of Thursday’s presidential elections in the capital, Lusaka, Zambia August 10, 2016. REUTERS/Jean Serge Mandela

It’s interesting to read and listen to the Patriotic Front, UPND and Socialist Party argue about the likely outcome of next year’s elections.

The truth is next year’s elections are increasingly becoming difficult to predict. There are a number of factors making this difficult to predict.

From 2001 to 2011 we had more than two serious contenders. In 2006, 2008 and 2011 we had MMD, PF and UPND. In 2006 MMD was on top, PF second and UPND third. In 2008 MMD was first, PF second and UPND third. In 2011 PF won, MMD was in second position and UPND came third. After the 2011 elections, MMD ‘disintegrated’ and we remained with literally two parties – PF and UPND. The 2015 and 2016 elections were won by PF with UPND coming second.

We don’t think the situation will be the same next year. We are likely to have more than two serious contenders for next year’s elections. And this complicates things. It makes it difficult to predict the likely outcome. We may even go to a rerun.

And this is compounded by regional voting patterns that became very well pronounced in the 2016 election results. It’s difficult to predict how these regional voting patterns will hold in light of new contenders. Although the new contenders have not participated in elections before, it will be naive to simply dismiss them as non-factors. Some of them have been doing very serious political mobilisation work that cannot be ignored. We have examples of new parties that performed exceptionally well in the past. MMD won elections within nine months of being formed. UPND performed very good within three years of being formed. The Patriotic Front completely and irreversibly overtook UPND, an older party, in 2006. So, prudence shows us that the new political parties like the Socialist Party, among others, cannot be excluded from the race or list of serious contenders.

And senior chief Mujimanzovu of the Kaonde speaking people in Solwezi is right when he says the 2021 general elections will be a test for the country.

“Yes, next year we are going for elections. This 2021, is a year for test for the country. But we need to maintain peace. We can’t force leadership on the people. People will make their decisions based on what they are going through,” says Mujimanzovu. “Now for me, I will welcome anyone who comes here. Politics is about ideas. It is not to intimidate each other. You need to sell your ideas to the people. So if people believe in you then you will have them. If people have not seen anything then how do you expect them to vote for you? Just sell your ideas and people will decide. My chiefdom will embrace everyone – there is no segregation here. This is a public road and we can’t choose who should travel on this road. I receive you as my subject. I want to see all of you have the freedom to move around and interact with the people in a free manner. Whoever wins then he becomes our President. Let us try to restrain from using our children to fight and insult each other. Let us embrace each other. Love one another because we are all Zambians. As we differ, let us not fight. We want a Zambia that is well for us all to live in. As you aspire for higher office, put the interest of the people first. We need to conduct decent politics. We don’t have to bring politics of dividing the people. Stop it.”

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