Monday, October 02, 2006

Zambian Elections 2006

Levy Mwanawasa has won the Zambian Presidential election - Thank God!

I'm actually not an MMD supporter. I feel that it's about time the party was rebranded. The Movement for Multi-party Democracy may have been an appropriate name when fighting to end Kaunda's one party state but it is dated now and demonstrates a lack of an underlying political philosophy. Having said that the Patriot Front and the UDA have no more of a political philosophy than the MMD.

In fact both of Mwanawasa's rivals (I know there were 5 candidates but only three of them hada cats chance in hell of winning!) have serious weaknesses. Hakainda Hichilema, of the UDA, is potentially Zambia's next President and that may well be a blessing. He has cut his teeth in the political scene and has made a huge impact in his campaign. The trouble is the UDA is a loose alliance of parties with no real direction. By the next election HH will have had time to build the party he wants to lead (afterall that's the way of African politics) and he may well win the mandate of the people. I just hope and pray that he doesn't cross to the MMD as so many others have done in the past. There is little political loyality in Zambian politics unfortunately and too many prominent politicians have 'sold out' in the past and changed their colours. Nevers Mumba, who ran for the Presidency in 2001 and was beaten by Levy Mwanawasa, joined the MMD shortly afterwards as Vice President! His sell out will live long in the memory. Not only did he sell out politically one might argue he sold his soul. A prominent Pentecostal Pastor he felt called by God to enter politics to serve his people. His service didn't last that long - he was in the running for the Presidency this time round as well but withdrew preferring to run next time! Please don't do the same HH!!!

The reason I'm glad Levy Mwanawasa won the election though is that Michael Sata lost. Sata is a thug of a man who has won much popular support in the urban areas of Zambia. He has a reputation and a 'doer' and his populist message of tax cuts and jobs creation has won him considerable support. Sata has even stated that there will be 'grave consequences' should he lose the election fraudulantly. The trouble is Sata will claim the election was rigged whatever happens. If we face facts he may well have a point. There will be irregularities in the voting procedure. It's inevitable - these things happen in most elections in the developing world. Despite any irregualrities though Mwanawasa would have won anyway. Unlike in 2001, when Anderson Mazoka was robbed by the outgoing president Frederick Chiluba, this time Mwanawasa has an awful lot of popular support and especially in the rural areas. SADC observers have said the election was fair and with Mwanawasa's sizable victory margin it appears unlikely that Sata has been robbed.

Only a couple of months ago I wanted Mwanawasa to lose the election. I was looking forward to Zambia being seen internationally as a true multi party democracy. An incumbant president defeated in a free and open election would have been fantastic for Zambia as a beacon of African politics. I changed my mind after spending most of August in Zambia and from following the election campaign in the Zambian and international press. The more I read about Sata, the more I read quotes from Sata - the more worried I became for the people of Zambia. 'King Cobra' definitely had a vemonous spit. I feared the end of multi party democracy if he was elected. Mussolini seems the aptess of nicknames.

So as Levy prepares for a second term I wish him well. I hope that he continues to fight corruption and that he has the courage to introduce the constitutional reform that Zambia desparately needs. I trust that he won't try to change the constitution to try to allow himself to contest a third term but that he oversees a modernisation of Zambia's system of election. In order to ensure fairness Zambia needs to do away with its first past the post system and repalce it with a system like that in DR Congo. Levy won only 28% of the vote in 2001 and even this time round he has only won just over 40% of the vote. A second round of voting would certainly reinforce the mandate given to the President.

Please govern with wisdom Mr President (and don't appoint one of your rivals as VP!!!)

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