.zm” class=”f”>Zambia Daily Mail by Online Editor on 6/19/13
By KELVIN KACHINGWE
THE question that should probably be asked is what is at stake in today’s Feira parliamentary by-election?
Depending on which angle you are looking at, that could be what is called a million dollar question. For any party with serious intentions of doing well in the general elections, which in the case of Zambia is 2016, a by-election is a very good litmus test to gauge which way the pendulum is likely to swing.
Five candidates from five political parties will are contesting today’s election, which was triggered by the resignation of Patrick Ngoma, former member of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) to the ruling Patriotic Front (PF).
Feira is an interesting seat!
You may actually want to say it has a sense of strong loyalty. You can actually say so about much of the Eastern part of the country. When the rest of the country was moving to the MMD during the return to multi-party politics, the Eastern areas of the country remained strongly loyal to UNIP, much the same way the Southern Province is with the United Party for National Development (UPND).
Had it not been for the boycott of the 1996 general elections by UNIP, the MMD would have found it difficult to gain substantial support in Eastern Province. And when the MMD finally managed to win Eastern Province, the people in the area remained loyal. Everyone seemed to be moving towards the PF, but the east remained largely MMD.
That is how Mr Ngoma was elected member of Parliament (MP) in the 2011 elections.
In a way, the east can be termed as a king-marker in Zambian politics.
So, as the parties go to the polls today in Feira, they would be aware that this is a litmus test for them as the country heads towards the 2016 elections.
For the ruling PF, this is chance once again to prove that it is not likely to be a one-term party. So far, it has won a number of by-elections held on the Copperbelt, Southern, Central and North-Western provinces. In fact, of all the by-elections held so far, it has only lost two, one in Western Province to the UPND and the other in Central Province to the MMD.
And with by-elections expected to be held in areas like Chipata and Malambo, it will be taking Feira seriously.
This much PF Feira campaign manager Edgar Lungu knows.
“We’ve held our own [winning strategy] in Feira, even against extreme provocation from the opposition, especially the UPND and MMD. But we’re confident that we will win. We have Malambo and Chipata coming-up.
“We’re confident of scoring 90 percent of the votes here. If 10 people vote, we will get nine votes, then the one vote will be shared among the other parties,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the campaigns in Feira yesterday.
If there is a party that is taking the Feira by-election that much serious, then it is the UPND. So aggressive have they been in Feira that they are not leaving anything to chance. The PF in the area have even accussed them of trying to fan violence. Earlier in the campaign, the UPND lost nine members in Kavalamanja, and they would want to win this race in honour of the departed.
The UPND are fielding Eularia Zulu, the former Eastern Province deputy permanent secretary. She is the only female contesting the seat.
With the MMD having lost some of the seats that they held after the 2011 elections, they will be in desperate need to retain at least this one after doing so with Muchinga, following the death of former vice-president George Kunda.
Otherwise, failure to do so will seriously dent their morale and questions may just be asked about the leadership of Nevers Mumba, a former tele-evangelist, who was known for his charisma. A man known to love “boxing”, it is perhaps time that he used the “boxing approach” to try and change the fortunes of the MMD.
Elias Phiri is the MMD candidate in the Feira by-election.
By yesterday mid-morning, Dr Mumba was in the area still campaigning.
In fact, by 05:00 hours, the MMD were going round the constituency announcing the venue and time of their last campaign meeting.
The same was happening with UNIP, who also as early as 04:00 hours, were busy with the public address system urging voters to vote for their candidate Charles Kanyama.
“Vote for Charles Kanyama, vote for the hoe, there is no house without a hoe,” the voice was heard on the public address system.
For some strange reason, UNIP seems to have taken by-elections seriously since the last general elections.
Even Mr Lungu was impressed with their work in Feira, saying he expected UNIP to do better than the other opposition political parties.
The same way UNIP is taking the by-election is much the same way National Restoration Party (NAREP) is doing. Obviously, the party president Elias Chipimo Jr, is fancing his chances in the 2016 general elections and wants to use by-elections to position himself.
Widely regarded as being elitist, this is a chance for him to get down to the grassroots. In Samuel Sikaonga, NAREP have their hopes in Feira.
But for the people of Feira, their immediate need is the Luangwa bridge – Feira road that they want worked on.
“All we want is the road to be worked on, that is the most important thing for us,” a resident, who identified himself as Collins, said.
This is what almost every resident was saying.
But let us see what they say in today’s election.