The UPND has retained the Sesheke parliamentary seat while the ruling PF has scooped all seven of the local government by-elections and has made steady progress in penetrating areas perceived to be UPND or opposition strongholds.
Yesterday, February 12, the people voted for their representatives in seven local government by-elections and a parliamentary by-election in different parts of the country necessitated either by death or resignations of previous representatives elected in the 2016 general polls.
The Sesheke seat which fell vacant after the death of their representative Frank Kufakwandi. From Tuesday’s by-election, UPND’s candidate Romeo Kang’ombe got 8,496 while PF’s Dean Masule polled 3,640 votes.
In the 2016 parliamentary election, PF’s candidate Namawa Sililo polled 2,940 against UPND’s Frank Kufakwandi who got 13,069. But in yesterday’s election, what we saw was a huge drop in the voter turnout as the total number of votes cast dropped tremendously to 11,419, which is almost 2,000 less the votes obtained by the last winning candidate.
This tells a story about the voter apathy seen from yesterday’s by-election in Sesheke. Could this poor turnout be a result of the pre-election violence seen between the two major political parties – PF and UPND? Or is it just general lack of desire for elections by the voters in most parts of the country?
Prior to this election, a wave of violence swept through Sesheke. Both the UPND and the PF have engaged in a blame game over who should be held responsible for the violence that left some people injured. We also saw some PF cadres beaten up by the police after a fracas at Sesheke Police Station with their opposition colleagues.
On the other hand, the PF has scooped all seven local government by-elections held in Chindwale in Katete, Mkomba in Lundazi, Nkombwa in Isoka, Sewe Mungole in Chavuma where the seat was previously held by the UPND, Anoya Zulu in Chililabombwe, Chinkutila in Chifunabuli and Munyama in Kabwe.
What is interesting about these results is the progress the ruling party is making in areas once considered opposition strongholds. For instance, in Chavuma, the positive outcome for the ruling PF is an indicator of what could await them in 2021 should they maintain their campaign drive. Only a few months ago, the PF grabbed the Mangango seat which was for many years held by the UPND. Was this by hook or crook? I don’t think it was. What we must not forget is that the PF always has a strong campaign strategy and never leaves anything to chance when it comes to elections. This kind of approach to elections is applied in both parliamentary and local government by-elections. While others may take it as “just any other issue”, for them, elections are a good indicator of what Zambians think about their governance and hence they dedicate a lot of time to do or say what they believe they can do to make life better for the electorates. And this is exactly what they did in Sesheke and the seven wards where they have won.
Despite them losing the Sesheke seat, the PF has gained tremendously considering the number of votes the candidate has received from this particular by-election. While the total number of votes cast and those received by the winning candidate have reduced, the PF has made a gain from the last election. This, in my view, is a win on its own. A win in the sense that the PF is able to grow the number of votes from areas where previous elections left them on the floor.
What are the lessons for the UPND and other opposition parties?
Times are changing. What every political party is in is a competition to serve the Zambians. No serious political party would relax on this fact and only count on the illusion of already having votes in an area considered a stronghold. Work still has to be done to maintain the support. The electorates want to see growth in any political party. Where there is stagnation, nobody would waste their vote on such a political party.
Just like any other field, constant reflections on what is working and what is not working are needed for our political parties to grow and get the confidence of the Zambians. Are your messages resonating with the needs of the electorates?